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Posts Tagged ‘customer service

Little dogs who want to play ball

Over the weekend, I threw the ball for a friend’s dog   .   .  . I threw two balls for two dogs – one many times and one once.

We threw the first ball for the cooperative dog and then a second for the other dog.   He picked up the ball, raced around and refused to give it back.  He wants to play ball but can’t grasp the essential idea.

The other dog had fun.  We threw the ball. She fetched it and brought it back.  And so it went on until we were tired.  Then we took her ball away and waited patiently for the old boy to realize the game is over and to drop his too.

That’s how we dealt with the old dog.  We’ve stopped trying to teach him to play ball.  We just gave him a spare one and let him think he was part of the game.

Life is great when you have a great supply chain

In real life, are we so patient?

I used to say that we need a magic list of essential people : our plumber, our electrician, our mechanic, our hairdresser.  There are usually about 10 people who we depend upon more than we realize.  We can probably survive one of them being unreliable.  If more than one is unreliable, life becomes a hassle.

Web 2.0 is full of inexperienced suppliers

With web2.0, we have many conversations with many people and we interact with people who have no idea of what the people they serve want.  They seem blissfully unaware of their own narcissism and muddle.  Indeed they seem to regard their own narcissism as social status.  Some even take the view that they click away from services that they don’t like and you should too.

They think they are the energetic little dog racing around.  Actually they are the old fellow who won’t give back the ball.  Sadly, they are going to play alone.

How do we help a youngster who isn’t up to the to-and-fro of Web2.0?

All my instincts are to help a young person.  I feel bad at giving them a ball and letting them waste their time.   The trouble is that if they are engrossed in their narcissism, there is not a lot we can do.

How do they learn to answer the questions that the customer is trying to ask?  When do they learn that we aren’t interested in the answers they know?  When do they have the epiphany and realize we aren’t even interested in the answers to the questions we ask?

We want the answer to the question we are trying to ask.  As experts in their field (or so they claim), they need to educate us.

When we throw them the ball, they must bring it back so we can throw it to them again.  They must help us play our part in their game.  We won’t have a game without some effort on their part.  Pretending to play doesn’t quite do it.

Our moral obligation to the young

Of course, when I am their supplier, and I include being a boss or teacher in the category of supplier, it is my job to understand the question they are trying to ask.  It is fatal to answer the one asked because in their inexperience they may have left out a detail essential to understanding the situation.

When someone has a question, it is my job to ask more questions to understand their situation.  It is through my questions, that they learn what to look for and an orderly way to approach the same issue in the future.

Indeed, once I have highlighted the important features of the situation, it is very likely, they will be see the way forward themselves.  Even if they are still overwhelmed, they will implement more confidently knowing what salient features they should be observing and knowing that I am there for them.

The foolishness of putting young people on the front line

Why oh why do we put inexperienced people on to dealing with the public?  It is so daft.

I suppose I cannot give up on them.  It is immoral to give up on the young. But they cannot be my preferred supplier either.

Preferred suppliers answer the questions I should ask

My essential suppliers must know their business.  And that means knowing the questions I need to ask.

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In Edinburgh last week I got the EasyJet treatment.

According to the loyal regulars, our experience on Wednesday last week was a RyanAir story and not a common experience on EasyJet.  That is good to hear.  So if you are not EasyJet checking these details (!), just note where I am going with this and skip over to the next heading!

I think, we shouldn’t put young people in the front line without proper training and support.   It will cripple their soul as surely as a road side bomb blows up young men in inadequately amoured vehicles.  We shouldn’t do this, morally.

And we shouldn’t do this because we are capable of managing much better.

Who agrees?

The back story

At 6pm, EasyJet groundstaff at Edinburgh Airport knew their 8pm flight to Luton would be delayed. They were telling passengers who were checking in at the airport.

They didn’t change the Boards though till 7.30pm, after the passengers were due at the gate at 7.25pm.

EasyJet were loading a Belfast flight shortly before and it would have been quite easy for someone to shout out that the flight was delayed, or put up a paper sign, and most of all to provide some information and hand out vouchers.

Very simply, passengers who had checked in online were not informed and nor was there a reasonable attempt to inform us.

We were delayed twice more. Vouchers for a princely 3 pounds were handed-out to those who asked at 10pm (with which you could buy a stale sandwich or a glass of wine – one or the other).

We eventually took off at 11pm, three hours late on a 75 minute flight, and suffered one more delay in Luton when the steps broke.

The steps broke? By this time, the passengers had begun to giggle.  It did seem as if EasyJet was in business well beyond its pay grade.

I departed north from the airport after midnight leaving stranded tourists who hadn’t eaten and who had no idea how to get to London.

The saving grace was a remarkably cheerful Purser who solved the problems of people stubborn enough to ask for assistance.  And many regulars were loyal to the airline despite the shoddy service – that’s good but as a first time EasyJet flyer I remain skeptical as did my foreign companion who has departed for another continent convinced of our total imcompetence.

But why I ask, were the ground staff so ill equipped to communicate the basics to the passengers?

Delays happen.  This is not news in the airline industry.  What are EasyJet’s procedures for rescheduling aircraft and crews?  What are their procedures for informing passengers already in the airport and on their way to the airport?  What are their procedures for informing people who they persuaded to check in online?  Why do they ask us for our mobile numbers if they don’t intend to use them?

And most of all, why don’t they train their staff in some basic active listening?

A one hour class in active listening skills will turn the the sulky staff at the airport into the cheerful Purser.

A customer service representative who protests her own innocence in the unfolding events doesn’t have a personality problem. She has a management problem.

No one has ever explained to her that we don’t care who is to blame within EasyJet.

We want to know three things.

1. When will we get home and how firm is the ETA?

2. How can we recorganize our ground arrangements (where are the train tables)?

3. How can we pass the intervening time and where can get refreshments?

Their backstory of a medical emergency in Nice was useful but the real story was that a medical emergency in France has knocked out the plane and crew schedules – not convincing is it?

I wouldn’t tell that story.   I swould simply say – we’ve screwed up.   A medical emergency has tripped our schedules.  We are only going to get you to London by midnight.  Now this is what we are going to do.  Let’s sort the passengers out.  Who will be connecting on – and get a passenger with an internet connection to look up the times?  Who needs a voucher?  This is where you find us if you need us.  Etc.

Keep it concrete and no excuses.

If a passenger is distressed, all they have to do is acknowledge the distress.  That is what the Purser did so well.  Even when the stairs broke inconveniencing passengers for the 4th time that evening, all he did was announce that he needed to apologize one more time.  He told us factually what the problem was and when we might receive a solution. He didn’t need to be defensive.  He wasn’t defensive.  Active listening is so easy when someone has shown you how.  And so effective too.

We shouldn’t put young people in the front line without proper training.  It will cripple their soul as surely as a road side bomb blows up young men in inadequately amoured vehicles.   We shouldn’t do this. It is not good for our souls either. We are better than this.  We know how to do this.  We should insist on better for our young people.

Who else agrees that we should stop putting young people in poorly structured jobs, with insufficient support and inadequate training?

Adam Greenfield, author of Everywhere and new Head of Design at Nokia, brought the recent Royal Society meeting on Ubiquitous Computing to a crescendo on Tuesday with a clean, TED style, run through on the pervasive nature of contemporary computers and five principles of design. These are taken from my notes (apologies Adam). As Adam spoke I was trying to relate them to soft systems as well, say HR systems.

Once I got back home, I tried to phrase them positively.

1. At the end of the day, will my client, or my employee regard themselves as better off? And am I willing to be accountable for my impact on them?

2. Am I willing to discuss fully with my client or my employee or a knowledgeable person they select, what we are going to do and what might be the consequences?

3. Does my suggestion honor my client or my employee and bring them esteem and status in the minds of people important to them?

4. Am I aware of the time constraints and rhythms important to my clients and employees and have I entered the rhythm of their activity in a way that is pleasing to them?

5. Is my client and employee in effective control of the process and do they feel that? Are they able to terminate at any time freely and without collateral damage?

Why do we find this so hard to do? I have been following a discussion that the Chief Happiness Officer started on customer service. Why do customer service people hate their customers so much? Quite likely because they have not benefited from these design principles and feel disrespected themselves. Until we, the people who design HR and management systems convey genuine respect towards them, they are not likely to feel well and happy themselves

So while customer service people protest their innocence on CHO, what is our best defence?  Have you designed systems which violated these principles?  Have you had success stories which surprised even you?


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