Not Good Business!
The following word-for-word conversation took place recently between
the Customer Service Manager of a mid-sized manufacturer and a
Service Manager: I have two poor performers, Barry and Mary.
Consultant: How are you handling them?
Our big customers are assigned to our good people. We route the
calls from the small customers to Barry and Mary.
What’s the reason for doing that? They can’t do too much damage?
Oh! So they’ll stay busy! I want them to stay busy.
Who are some of the small customers?
(She rattles off several global retailers.)
Those are ‘small’ customers?
They do very little business with us.
Let me understand this. Issues for ‘small’ customers such as (global
giant) are all handled by two poor performers so they can keep busy.
CSM: (beaming) That’s right!
I did not invent this! But it’s not the first time
I’ve heard it. Busyness is not good business…or related to
productivity or quality…or a way to deal with customers…or a way to
improve poor performance.
Managers often measure activity instead of results. It’s the
tendency, especially in tough economic times, to focus on tactics
rather than strategy. This tactical approach obscures results until
it is too late and failure is upon you.
Busyness obscures the results from a poor performer in these
situations. Barry and Mary have no idea their performance is
unacceptable because they are so busy they can’t imagine doing any
more, much less different.
More importantly, ‘small’ customers do not get the attention
they need. In this case, some have drifted away and others refuse to
increase the size or diversity of their orders because service is so
poor. Some of these ‘small’ customers are huge companies with a
great need for the manufacturer’s product. These customers decided
to give the company a chance and, with this level of poor service,
they failed. The company is well-known in the region and these
experiences challenge their good reputation.
The prescription for curing this sick situation is simple.
The Customer Service Manager (CSM) must:
with Barry and Mary to set clear expectations for their
performance based on the customers’ needs and satisfaction
Train them in
the fundamentals of the job, especially solving customer’s
problems in a proactive and pleasant way
Work with them
to create an improvement plan with clear measurements of
results, not activity.
When the CSM is
satisfied that all that can be done has been done to improve each
individual’s performance, it is time for a decision:
How you are managing your good and poor performers? Are you
tracking activity—busyness—or are you looking at
employee performance and customer satisfaction strategically based
If you are caught in the busyness trap, extricate
yourself by creating or expanding your strategic business plan.
If you do not have a strategic business plan, what are you waiting
for? Employee performance should be measured based on your
strategic business plan goals and objectives. Each employee has a
role in fulfilling the plan. Follow the steps we suggested for the
CSM above. This helps you stay focused on managing your results and
your employees strategically. Focus on business not busyness.
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