She gave him the brochure and explained the differences that were going into effect. The cashier waiting on me said, “Well, since you overheard that, I should probably give you one too. This is a much better program. It’s about time THEY did something for the customer.”
I walked away thinking, “Wow. How can someone take such a positive thing for their customers and turn it into a negative?” Somehow, this employee had gotten a really bad attitude. I was certainly glad that he wasn’t part of the Incept team! For some reason, that situation really stuck with me, and I began to realize that there are at least two important lessons here.
I think it’s fairly rare for an employee to come to the job with a bad attitude – at least to a new job. Most employees come into work wanting to do a good job. They want to succeed, and they want to make their bosses proud of them. Unfortunately, and all too often, employees lose that desire somewhere along the way. The magic moment when passion for quality begins to fade is (almost always) when the employee feels like management doesn’t care about the quality of their service. Accordingly, they feel that management doesn’t care about them as a person.
In the case of this cashier, I’m pretty sure that he didn’t create the bad attitude. I expect that his manager created it by treating him as a number rather than a human being.
I came away from this with another lesson: When you’re on the front lines, dealing with the customer or the donor, the people who you interact with see YOU as a representative of the company.” You ARE the company in their eyes. There is no “you” and “them.”
The words that you use, the empathy and advocacy that you convey in your voice, and the professionalism that you bring to the interaction all formulate the donor’s (customer’s) opinion about the entire organization you represent. I can point to at least three recent studies that all concluded that the attitude of the front line employee is at least one of the top two determinants – if not the single largest determinant – of the donor’s (customer’s) future business. The most common reason why people take their business elsewhere is the poor attitude of a person who is, at any given time, the face of the company.
It’s probably not realistic to expect a mistreated employee to deliver an ideal customer experience. Employees have to feel valued and respected. That doesn’t mean that we have to baby employees and let them have their own way. We can certainly have good business rules in place to hold people accountable. We just need to treat them like we want and need to be treated.
The old “Command and Control” approach to management doesn’t cut it with today’s employees. CBS did an expose that concluded Boomers need to hear the message that they should be less of a boss and more of a coach. We need to become coaches and mentors. The very future of our businesses depends on it.
Customer Service Professionals
The next time you start to think negatively about the company and think you can distance yourself from the entity, you need to sit back and change your thinking. If you have challenges with the company, you need to have a candid conversation with your chain of command to offer suggestions on how to provide a better customer experience. Lose the “they” vocabulary. There is no “they.” When you talk with me, I think of you as the company.