Monday, October 5, 2015

Dale Carnegie...did you fail us, tip our hand, or stack the deck?

I started working customer service many years ago, retail has been a recent additive bonus.  Retail has its ups and downs like any other job offering, but many in the industry that serve front-end jobs get burnt out very easily.  Many of whom I've called colleague quote the sacred mantra as part of their loathing, "The customer is always right".  There are parody sites of this motto (scenarios of the customer acting egregiously problematic, ignorant, or rude) and cross-over parody sites (wherein the customer service person is a jerk to the customer).  Many servers I know write posts constantly about the nature of their version of the beast in a "tips are my life-blood, why are you my vampire" kind of way.  And I won't begin to go on rants regarding the antics I've seen. (Though being able to say, replying to a customer who asked if the yellow bag of M&M's has peanuts, "If not, it would be false advertising" was rather satisfying.) But it goes without saying that the motto has caveats...but not to Carnegie.

See, he does mention something in his seminal work How to Win Friends and Influence People (furthermore HWFIP), that you always have a choice in relationships (sales or otherwise) to be well-liked or be right.  Because consistently proving the latter (or badgering it) can prove costly to the relationship.  Imagine the person you've loved the most and just constantly one-upping them and telling them they're wrong.  Would the relationship last?  Probably not.  It doesn't say much for the relationship if the majority of it is spent putting someone down.  And in sales, it just means you're going to lose a customer.  Therefore, he posits that we should strive to be well-liked instead.  

However in the utmost logical sense, if the customer is always right, then, who is always wrong?  The employee.  Technically so is management, but they have ways to make the relationship with the customer better through comps, discounts, and alternatives; options not available to the employee.  Furthermore, management understands they have rules and regulations to follow, they have best practices; "should' scenarios that they can follow to assure the best results occur for both company and customer.  Overall,  Carnegie posits that employees should race to this option faster in the sales relationship if things get out of hand.

In the end, these shoulds SHOULD support the employee...but due to conflicts in training and implementation, they instead mark the employee as 'the problem' rather fallaciously. Carnegie castigates these employees that emphasize their correctness, despite or in account of the employee's attempt to seek amicable consensus.  **There is another blog that I will do on system's theory and connection to workplace relationships. 

Of course, HWFIP is a great tool otherwise.  It's an amazing resource for understanding how people who desire to be in sales, customer service, hospitality, donor development, and other industries can create long-term relationships with clients and make us more open to anticipating their needs.  But it outlines the theory so well that the practice is now transparent.  Clients, rather correctly, expect to be listened to, expect to be treated courteously without question, and expect to be catered to for their business.  Every client expects this, even ones whose business is less than a few percentage points of the monthly gross income.  (Because we've all had that person who comes up every month and purchases less than an average transaction and expects 100% customer service every time despite turning down Product of the Month offers and specials.)  Every guest comes in expecting to be treated as a donor, contributor to the greater causes your company dares to dream to, and your place is to accept it.  The guest awaits your attempts to warm and woo...and if they don't get their expectation level of wooing...they flit to other candles willing to burn to their desired intensities.  

And then THIS happens: A waiter comes to the manager stating that the guest is upset about their food and service, and is now summoned to the table.  The manager goes and asks about the experience and the guest regales about either specific nuances that were annoying, or food that wasn't at an expectation level, or worse has made the customer ill.  Without any warning, the manager must make a judgement call and usually gives a coupon, voucher, or comp to the guest to make up for the experience.  In the end, there are apologies and earnest promises to be better next time; followed up by discussions behind closed doors about "the way things should have been handled" from third-hand story-recipients fed party-line from corporate.

In the above story, the guest actually made the faux pas up.  The guest lied at the last minute to intentionally catch the waiter off guard (to give the impression the waitstaff wasn't paying attention to the guest properly), catch the manager in a quick solution (which appeases the guest and is amicably considered with P&L in mind), and keep the control in the customer's hands.  Which it did...but the damage isn't done.  Quality index templates are compromised and the managers need to go from bottom to top to fix the quality of the service.  This will go on for months...even after the employees have finally dismissed the anger and moved on to other customer situations to loathe because it will come back on their annual review.

Call it a one-off situation if you will.  But take a few moments as you approach someone else in a customer service scenario and examine all the parties objectively.  Did the customer service person do their best?  Did the customer truly have a complaint or was the system gamed by semantics and over-exaggerated need?  Did the manager treat both customer and employee with respect when resolving the matter?  Watch it even in your own next issue and see it for yourself.  

In conclusion, with the proliferation of customer service jobs and workplace improvement propaganda, is there no longer a game to be played anymore?  Is customer service so transparent now that it is completely proper for either parties to call out each other's BS and demand better behaviors.  In the end, can they seek compromise based off of mutual respect that is truly earned by authentic personalities instead of role-played personas instead of playing red-riding-hood/big-bad-wolf games with each other into a paralyzing, circular stalemate.  Because Carnegie has stacked the deck, in that, now the customer needs to realize that in "being right" all the time, they too fall prey to the relationship trap and can be no longer liked or tolerated.  The balance is rather precarious...but it comes down to mutual respect.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Moments of Silence and the shots fired between...

Horrific things happen all the time.  I watched part of the CNN coverage of the shooting on October 1, 2015 and felt immediate catharsis that I'm not in college.  But knew the flurry of speculative questions were soon to follow in the wake of determining the identity of the shooter.  Who was it?  What caused them to do this?  Will gun legislature again be brought to the forefront?  Will pro gun and pro security square off again?

I look at one portion of my Facebook feed quoting statistics regarding guns per capita, mass shootings since Newtown, acts of terror or racism, mental health awareness.  Another part of my feed is pro-gun and less restrictions that on days like today use epithets of "If you don't want a gun, don't own one.  If you want to go where people have them, enter at your own risk or hang with those that do."  And my response to the latter is, "you mean...go outside, right?" Because outside your own home, whether you have one or not, you risk being in a space with people with guns. Let's just face facts and not be semantically ignorant.

Obviously, I'm pro-regulation.  I, just like any good control freak, want to know where the damn things are. But I also am not an idiot, I realize getting that information is like asking "Is there a criminal or terriorist?" publicly when I turn every corner.  After reading through the President's speech, I agree that something should be done to tighten things up, maybe a better examination of the countries who have less gun violence?  Oh wait...that's most everyone else except the middle east...where we spend most of our time with our military.

*cough* Sometimes invading/investigating the wrong places like after 9/11. *cough*

Is this a call to or against arms?  No. Is this a call to remind people to become open-minded about legislature and how we can build something safer for our kids...maybe.

You was pointed out that the kid, and others that have been these shooters, come from troubling backgrounds.  Lives that weren't opulent or by any means easy.  We live in glass houses and throw stones everyday because we want our lives to have meaning and be better than those around us. In some ways, we are all a bit classist...depending on the time of day and if our inner narcissist has decided to take her turn on the catwalk.  They come from lives that are on a fragile and broken edge and can easily slip and they FIND NO OTHER recourse.  Why is that important?

Why rob a bank or local food store if you have the money to buy the bread or drinks in the first place.
Why worry that you're not going to be able to make it to your rent payment at the end of the month when you have the money to cover the rent.
Why worry that you can't afford dinner for the rest of the family when you just bought all your groceries.

And there are groups all around our cities that help supply these things all the time.  Churches, homeless shelters, non-profits who support families in need...and they don't always get the press they need or the mobility through our streets.  Why?  Because we're afraid of failure.  Afraid to admit we need help.   To proud to beg.  And sometimes we're so absorbed in wondering if our own spoons are enough to handle the day that we don't realize...our kids may not.  It's not their problem...but like pets, they sense when mommy and daddy can't handle things.  They can read the worry in our brows, they can feel the trembling in the hugs at night.  And it effects them...and you can't stop that.

The world could use more gun safety and legislature.  But how about help for your fellow woman or man?  If any one who reads this blog can find an agency to help a friend...and then branch out and find more for others...maybe...we can help each other out and find ourselves no longer near those broken edges wherein the only recourse is to violently react.  This isn't socialist propaganda....this is "stop being a voluntarily blind part of the problem".

EDIT: After reading more on the shooter in the recent shooting, it would be unfair to say that he came from a "troubled" or "financially unstable" background.  His disdain for religion does point out that he had a problem with those of faith...and maybe a faith-based solution wasn't one he needed.  There are plenty of others in the world and the fact that people cannot find them immediately is a testament to how much of a priority "finding help" for people who "have issues with the world" is.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Welcome to the identity crisis: Choosing a voice on a medium without sound....

So, this will be my first post.  Let's see how far this goes...

We all experiment in life with ideas or purposes, causes.  Heck...I've even done it on a job interview or two.  On a whim, I made it through to a fourth...yes, fourth interview with a company to become a business developer with them.  Speaking with the CEO of a company...of any size...when most of your correspondence to a CEO is imaginary letters and monologues to the audience in your showerspace or on your toilet becomes the most nerve wracking thing in existence.

Because it's actually happening.  It's this moment...and all you can do is be yourself...and improvise the rest.  That's it.  Be yourself, and then fake it 'til you make it. And that almost got me a job.

Humbling as that is, standing naked on a limb in front of friends or the internet is not easy and deserves a moment of pause.  Because you have to consider who you are about to become:

- The know-it-all whose opinion is more right than anyone else?
- The curmudgeon that people loathe to agree with but occasionally laugh at?
- The troll that doesn't care and pontificates idiocy as such?
- The seeker of truth whose overwhelming quest is humility at the risk of sounding like they have a biased opinion?
- The jock, the nerd, the loser....wait...this isn't The Breakfast Club....

The internet is full of so many many topics of conversation.  It makes a person wonder, am I going to be unique?  Will I be able to compete with the pretty people who are watched merely because they have an awesome profile picture and a witty thing to say?  Is my flavor of contribution going to be sweet to the worlds savory or vice-versa...or worse yet...the strain that spoils the whole batch?

Well...there is only one way to find out...try.  So subscribe and check out other posts.  When I write them...which may be soon.