Archives for November 2010

What signals are you sending?

Which should come first? Employees or customers? Its a conversation I’ve found myself in on a number of occasions recently.  For those looking at the customer service world from the customer’s point of view, the answer might seem obvious.  Its us!  The customers.  Then why do perennial customer experience stars seem to reap more than their share of customer accolades and loyalty by doing the opposite?

Take a look at Fortune’s list of Best Places to Work.  For those that follow customer satisfaction surveys, many names on this list should look familiar: Norstrom, Marriott, Starbucks, Zappos.  And right at the top of the list is Wegmans, who’s motto is “employees first. customers second”.  And, doesn’t it just make sense? After all, who interacts with your customers? Who answers the phone? Who ships your products? Who sends invoices?  Your employees.

So, when I saw this sign next to the front door of a business the other day, it made me wonder.  What kind of signs do we give our employees about their value to our business?   What kind of signal does this send to our customers who walk through that main entrance?

The economy implodes, we as executives fear for our jobs.  The first thing we do is purge the payroll.  Sure, there are often valid reasons for such action that are tied to simple economic theory 101.  But, often this is simply the path of least resistance to self preservation.  It’s the easiest thing to do.

AIG nearly goes under.  Thousands lose their jobs.  Yet executives rewarded their failures with huge bonuses.

Visitors and executives get the prime parking spots near the front door.  Employees park out back. 

A project fails and the project manager gets sacked.  How about a promotion for failing early and learning from it to make the next project a success?

The examples are endless.  But the message is the same.  We more often than not value stuff over people.  Our plant and equipment over our people.

But, put yourself in your customers shoes.  What door do you want to walk through in those shoes?  The one above.  Or this one.


Social Business Is For Girls

How do you make decisions?  How do you interact with customers and colleagues? Businesses? Friends? Neighbors?

Remember the groundbreaking book by John Gray back in 1992, Men are from Mars.  Women are from Venus?

The Cave

In his book, Gray explored the core differences in the way men and women approach problem solving and interpersonal relationships.  Under stressful situations, men tend to withdraw until we find the solution to the problem.  Gray calls this “retreating into the cave”.  The function of the retreat is to take the time to determine a solution; to insulate ourselves in order to not be exposed, to not be put into a position where we don’t have all the answers and are vulnerable.  When faced with a issue, we tend to jump to “solve mode”.

Women, on the other hand, when faced with an issue, do the opposite.  They engage.  They seek out friends, colleagues, trusted companions.  And, they talk about the issue.  GASP!  Talk? When I don’t know the answer? What if someone sees through my facade? What if my lack of expertise is exposed?  What if I, dare I say, appear transparent?   

The Wave

Gray describes “the wave” as a woman’s natural ability to give to other people.  He claims that when a woman gives to others, her natural wave is in a stable state.  But, when she gives and gives, with little in return, her wave will crash on the shore.  In these times, women need someone to listen, understand and reassure them – to reciprocate those things that she has been putting out all along.

Sounds like social business to me.  Listen, understand, engage, talk, collaborate, give and receive acceptance and seek mutual value from strengthened relationships.  The kind of relationships that create a stable wave and allow us to get things done.

So, if you want to make sense of this whole social business thing, the next time testosterone man in the locker room calls you a “girlie man”, take it as a compliment and know that you’re on the right path.