As I was considering the standards of support, I was reminded to Set the bar high when it comes to all areas of leadership! This idea came from a sermon that a pastor of a church I attended taught one Sunday many years ago. He reminded us that we need to set the bar very high on our behaviors for our children and others that look to us as leaders. He said that followers almost always fall short of the bar set by their leaders! So if you are somewhat slack on an area, your followers are also likely to be slack, and a little worse!
What do we learn from setting the bar high?
This plays into so many things, but I think my main point is clear. For some introspection, when you see your kids or a subordinate at work slack off or not do something as well as it should have been done, take a moment and ask if they learned that from you! Yes, what have you displayed as the example? Also, do not be self defeated. If you have not done what you wanted, it is time to get up and start again! It is not about the past, but what we can do in the future that will make the real difference! Look for a future post that will share this easy concept!
When I think of companies that set the bar high, I cannot help but think about Disney and his vision that carried from top to bottom of that company! You can see how the standard is applied across the board in the book: The Disney Way, Revised Edition: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company
All for now!
When I think of providing simple support, I think of a cartoon that makes me laugh and I use it in presentations! Two people talk and one says to the other – “that is a huge book, how much have you read” and the other says, “I don’t know. I got to the first 140 characters and got too tired of reading it!”. Do not tire people when buying your products or when the call in for support! In essence, are you providing your customers (or sale prospects) simple support?
Why do I bring this up? Well I was on the phone for 15 minutes ordering some music from a popular music company due to an infomercial! It was not for me but my wife, and after 15 minutes I was connected to get a free cruise – I JUST WANTED SOME CDs! I am complaining, but my point is, if I am calling for a CD, do not advertise me for 15 minutes! Are you customer focused or sales centric? They kind of go hand in hand, but seriously!
So what is my point? Provide simple Support!
So it reminded me that we should focus on ease! Do not take people down other paths, but get the process done and get it done right! Do not clutter what the person needs, quickly get the information so their issue is solved, and then move on!
A great example we have all heard about is how using http://twitter.com can help get an issue handled! I mean, it has even caused a governor of a state to call and apologize to a 17 year old! You can get past the clutter and get the point across! Twitter is super popular and I have to admit, I use it more than news feeds to feed the weather geek in me! It has been a huge area for support as well. You post a complaint, you are surprised by the outcome. A quick Tweet about service or a product will many times get you help for what you are dealing with!
That is Simple Support!
All for now!
A challenge at many companies is the silo affect and blame game! It is so easy to blame other departments and people on their shortcomings. But what is the point? Are you calling out issues in other departments to save your reputation? A company divided against itself will fail. The next time you are ready to call out someone else on their lack of getting something right or failing in an area, how about asking yourself “How could I change this to make it a success from now on?” SuccessFactors calls the bettering of a process Kaizen. I like the idea! Stop pointing out the bad, and start asking how you can help better the situation to make it great! I guarantee the allies you make will be better than the battles you start that are fruitless and cause hurt and anger and end up being counter-productive.
Figuring out how to make a failure into a success is how you make a support group go from Good to Great!
I was reminded again about the bus analogy dealing with the people on the bus helping you reach your destination. If along the way you found a passenger on the bus that was pulling you in the wrong direction wouldn’t you want them off your bus? Yes! And you should be willing to pay their fare to get on a different bus if you can! The key here is that you remove people or things that are not contributing to the success of the organization. That may be people, responsibilities or even a product line. If it creates drag on the organization, get rid of it. The core that is left will be more successful by eliminating the things that hold it back. Think about companies that stopped a brand or stopped a business because it did not help the core business. You will find that they are more successful today as they focus on what they do do well and succeed there.
If I were to sum up what makes a great support organization it would be the people! The right people tend to overcome any obstacle, figure out how to get the job done, and become the people you can always trust. In Jim Collins’ book he mentioned having the right people on the bus. The procedures and processes for support are good, but the people you have tend to figure things out without the need for step by step instructions. They often come up with the process by doing what is needed and then the processes “write themselves” as these people learn the best way to solve a problem and write it down so it can be shared!
Once you have these people, you do whatever you can to keep them. If you keep them, you stay strong. This is especially true in support where turnover is high and expected. At my company we have enjoyed the best support when we have maturted and trained people and they have stayed for long times.
Easy to say, tough to do!
If you dropped your car off to get serviced and it started to draw near the end of a day, and the service was expected to take several hours, and the station said they would call you when the car was ready, you would start to wonder – “Is my car going to be ready or not by the end of the day?” Imagine how much better this could be if an update was supplied about half way through the day. You would have a better understanding of what was happening and the assurance it would be done. Or, what if it were not going to be done? This ties into 2 previous posts of “Reset Expectations” and “Do what you say and mean what you do!”
The point is, we need to update our customers. You do not want to overdo it, but we all want to know what is going on, that we are not forgotten, and that the issue that is being worked on will be handled and how soon. We like it. We should provide it!
I often tell agents to think beyond the question asked and to try and cover follow up questions to inquiries. This is especially true if they are answering a question and the answer is no. Anticipating the next question or providing information that can answer any question the user may have about the functionality helps the support given go from good to great. It also stops additional incidents from being created and this also is a great thing.
In our support center we have had days when a customer will call back multiple times to get the answers they want because one representative will do something more than the other and even stretch the scope of what the support organization should be doing. Almost like a kid who will go to a dad to get permission for something and when he is not given the answer he wants, he goes and asks his mom the same question hoping for a different response. Making sure your representatives are telling customers the same thing and performing the same support to all customers is important. It has resulted in poor surveys as well since the customer will feel they did not get the same level of support that they did the last time when they called. Consistency means we have one message and that is more effective. Now, sometimes the message needs to change and be updated. It is important, if this happens, to ensure all are on the same page with the information being supplied. Works in parenting too!
Well, that is a constant message that my boss likes to follow. I agree. If we can be personal and speak with people we achieve so much more by calling than emails back and forth. It is one thing to follow up a call with an email, it is a different thing to call and work through multiple questions and even resolve a case. If you can, calling the customer is so much better than continuous emails back and forth.
Avoid the blame game! When something does not happen as it should due to problems with another department or another individual, instead of finding who to blame, think of how you can assist in the real solution. Think of how can you help that individual so they do not make the same mistake again. Think of how you can help the department do better so that the same issue does not occur again. It is our natural tendency to blame others when something we are involved in fails, but that does not help us go from “Good” to “Great”. Solving the core issue of the problem should be the nature of what support is about and will help you go from Good to Great!