Customer Service

March 8, 2010

Win-Win Management – Finding Small Gains To Start

As we set out to build relationships with our people, it’s vital that there is every opportunity to make progress.

And sometimes, you can be in the driving seat to make that happen.

Managers need the support of their people to build teams that will have positive impacts on the running of the business – and the outcomes that are necessary.

To make the most of this, good managers create valuable one-to-one relationships with as many employees as they can, such that rapport builds and creates win-win opportunities, where both sides get positive benefits from the interactions.

Where there is repair work to do – as new managers often find when they take on an existing team – perhaps where the previous manager has underperformed, the progress to rebuild trust can take a little time.

Employees who have suffered consequences of poor management relationships will by pretty shy when it comes down to exposing themselves to more painful experiences in the future.

So, this is when the manager really starts to earn their crust. Their efforts at this time will really need to demonstrate a changed workplace environment for the better, through the immaculate way they interact with their people.

There are many ways to rebuild relationships. There are ways to start them off too, but the key impact when things haven’t gone so well in the past is the white flag of peace to offer. Sometimes this can be enough for those forgiving types in your team.

Others will be less easy to turn around. They may be scarred more badly and will need real evidence of goodwill on your part, to accelerate the healing that will need to take place.

Managers can position themselves to make upfront gestures towards their people to more rapidly progress their collaborative input. Small actions to show their willingness to move relationships forwards are hugely valuable.

Be it a small gesture of thanks; an idea shared to help a learning need; simple trust building activities; remembering the name of an employee’s child; recognizing when they need to listen much more than speak.

Taking the first step to enhance a relationship with small gains for your people will quickly start the ball of a bond rolling. Once that happens, there are short-, medium- as well as long-terms gains to be enjoyed, on both sides.

The most interesting aspect of this is that although a manager is offering small gains to their people as a constructive activity to develop the relationship between them, make no doubt about it, this investment is one that will pay off over time for them too.

The key to building effective relationships is that both sides see benefits for themselves, whilst – and this is significant – allowing the outcomes to make the business more effective, efficient and organizationally valuable too.

So there are winners all the way round, just from a manager being prepared to stick their neck out and offer upfront value to a maligned bunch of employees.

And changing their views of the possibilities that can come from good management forever.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Customer Service, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

Permalink Print

February 15, 2010

Perception Makes The Difference

The iris reader in passport control was out of order at Heathrow this weekend.

When I remarked on it to an official there (with care, as I had been delayed long enough), he smiled and said, ‘Well, it’s usually working 99% of the time’.

Since I’d only recently joined this scheme, designed to more quickly get you through the queues at passport control, I was disappointed.

I then reflected that 1% out of order for them was 100% out of order for me.

It’s about perception. What seemed a small outage for the people at Heathrow was my total experience, so, noticeable and a big thing for me!

In the work we do as managers, there are many issues we engage in with our people.

By its very nature, our perspective is very different from theirs – and here’s where we have to be careful and learn to be good managers.

Our insights into what is very important to them must be given extra focus, because otherwise we will miss things that make the biggest differences to them, small though they might appear to us in our role.

And this is as inherent a part of our job if we want to make a decent fist of management.

Because, frankly, most managers don’t understand that being interested in what’s important to their people, is most likely to be of high value to the team and organizational performance.

Can you see where the 1% view needs to be from the 100% angle?

Filed under Blog, Customer Service, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

Permalink Print

February 4, 2010

Customer Complaints – Who Will Gather The Intelligence?

Complaints are a valuable asset to any organization, once you can ensure that your people are willing to play.

And to get them with you, they need to know that it’s not personal…

There is no greater value than that to be gleaned from your customers and clients who are prepared to take the time to give you feedback – which is a much more constructive way to describe a complaint.

These gold nuggets are literally worth their weight, when you are able to capture, dissect and respond positively to what you find out. Yet many organizations revel in low complaint rates!

The key to this is your people – all of them. It’s about turning them from being fearful of when a complaint comes in, to positively gleeful, because of the enormous opportunity it presents.

By ensuring that every one of them is geared up to sense when things aren’t going well, you will create an army of willing volunteers who are ready for action. Their job is to seek out and get to the bottom of any dissatisfaction they perceive.

This has to happen in the moment, all the time, or it will have passed and the opportunity will have disappeared into the anonymity of an ended phone call; a person now back out on the street; or the lost data storage of an online interaction that never sees the light of day.

It needs to be pro-actively sought, not passively responded to – or worse, swept under the carpet with the hope it will go away.

By encouraging your people to engage and interact with their clients, in any way at all, they will be able to get under the tough skin of a dissatisfied customer ‘not wanting to make a fuss’. They have to smell it out or it will slink away, unspoken, which is of no use at all to you.

They will probably capture more customer dissatisfaction, than you expect, especially to start with.

And when they do, it’s to be applauded. It’s to be celebrated.

Working as a team to find out critical information from those who have it, is a tactic any manager can adopt to ensure that customer service progresses, whilst also building the team togetherness ethic in a constructive, value-creating way.

By encouraging each and every one of them to engage their clients in any way they can, will make the conversation much more open and relaxed – and valuable.

Because, with this in place, many of your customers can easily be asked what they would love changed if they had the choice in the experience they have most recently had.

And that gives you – and your team – the vital intelligence to make your offer even better than it already is.

(c) 2010 Martin Haworth. This is a short excerpt from one of 52 lessons in management development at Super Successful Manager!, an easy to use, step-by-step weekly development program for managers of EVERY skill level. Find out more at

Filed under Blog, Customer Service, Developing Your People, Focus on Results by Martin

Permalink Print

January 30, 2010

Dealing With Difficult People – General Principles

Difficult people can be found anywhere. As managers or supervisors, you are likely to have at least one you can name. It’s as common as that.

There is a general principle to use as a first step.

Most managers come across difficult people at some stage in their careers or other. They are common and challenging sometimes by their behaviors, which can be very demanding, as well as time-consuming for us all.

What is fascinating, is how many managers come across a lot, yet others seem ‘lucky’ and come across far fewer.

It’s not luck.

You see, some managers are better at dealing with difficult people than others, even though they might not always be too sure about exactly how they do it.

There is often something that triggers their character and just as often, that will provide you with detailed clues about what you can do about it.

When considering why this is, there is one simple tactic that rises above others. The managers who are best at handling difficult people, are almost always good at building relationships, which they do without much effort.

They spend time using their listening skills to pay full attention to everyone – difficult or otherwise – they come across, thereby showing them that they are interested in them. This is the first part of the simple solution to dealing with difficult people and, as such, is the key to all workplace relationships too.

After listening to the issues raised by a difficult person, these managers are also very good at asking relevant questions to show they are listening and also to help the individual find new perspectives on the situation they are being difficult about.

Once they have created this level of rapport, managers who handle difficult people well are also very good at drawing a line under proceedings and moving the difficult person right along.

It’s only by using all of these tactics, that a manager will have the best results with difficult people, and minimize the frustrations.

Indeed, some managers have been so damaged by just one difficult person in a team that they give up themselves.

All they needed was a full awareness of what is happening and the steps to take to make the problem resolved

And it’s worth bearing in mind in the organizations we work in, that there are usually two different circumstances that we come across that need slightly different twists on the simple approach above.

They are people you are with regularly – people in your life outside work even – and those you aren’t. These are people who are strangers in your business and life who you might only come across once, for example.

Both can be resolved using the tactics above quite easily, so it’s always worth taking the time to ensure that they are fully utilized.

Filed under Blog, Customer Service, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

Permalink Print

September 27, 2009

One and a Half Ice Creams

It was early lunchtime.

The outdoor trattorias were slowly filling up as we looked around for a good place, nothing too extravagant.

The first place looked fine, yet despite trying to get the attention of the guy who was placing people (making eye contact, that sort of thing), apart from grabbing him by the arm, he wasn’t paying attention.

We moved on.

The next place was better, we got ourselves seated by a charmer of a guy who did grab us by the arm and we chose our lunch.

As the drinks arrived, we noticed that close by was a much better deal, pizza and a beer for 7 Euros – quite a bit less of a drain on our holiday spending money.

Slightly disappointed, we hung in there, had a nice lunch still with the lingering disappointment that we’d missed a trick.

The guy who had coaxed us in then made up for the price by bringing my wife a small ice-cream cone as an unexpected freebie, as I finished my coffee.

He was redeemed with his half an ice-cream.

Later that evening, I was aware that I’d not had my own ice-cream fix for the day, so after an unremarkable dinner, we made our way across the piazza to the brightest lit ice-cream shop in town.

As we were deciding what to have, the helpful assistant pointed out to me that my ‘medium’ cone, allowed me to have a second flavor on my cone.

Sometimes ordinary customer service is enough – then the unexpected , ‘extra mile’ service makes all the difference.

And even paying that little bit more becomes alright when you get more than you might have expected.

Filed under Blog, Customer Service, Management Basics by Martin

Permalink Print