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helloWhen the Leader is the Problem
When the Leader is the Problem

As an operations/customer service consultant, I get a first-hand view of the internal workings of multiple companies. I have the privilege to observe corporate chemistry – how leadership interacts with employees, how employees interact with leadership, how employees interact with one another and how leaders and employees interact with customers.

I get to observe unspoken words cloaked in body language and behavior. When approached by frustrated leaders, it is necessary, to be honest in regard to what I feel is creating a negative atmosphere – I sometimes have to tell them that they are the problem. Here are a few instances that I observed where the leader is the problem.

Undefined Expectations

When expectations are clearly and well defined, employee accountability is usually crystal clear. When the leader assumes and verbalizes that employees should “just use common sense”, trouble is not far behind.

It is imperative that expectations are clearly communicated – primarily via a job description and a set of performance standards. Leaders must be serious about taking the necessary steps to develop and communicate expectations.

Poor Employee Relations

Some of the most shocking behavior that I have witnessed has come from leaders. Condescending communication, temper tantrums laced with profanity, and the “blame game” just to name a few. Cultures, where the leader is prone to any of these, are not conducive to long-term productivity and a high rate of employee turnover is sure to follow. Disrespectful actions must be eliminated before a positive environment can exist.

Unclear Direction

In business, it is sometimes necessary to alter course in response to one’s market or to other economic pressures. When altering course becomes a weekly activity, it creates unnecessary chaos. It’s as if current projects have no meaning as it has now become necessary to “take a different approach”. Employees are caught up in the helter-skelter environment and soon grow indifferent to any ideas presented by the leader as they realize that their hard work never fully reaches the implementation stage – because the leader will soon present something “new” to chase.

Know it All Attitude

When one has a “know it all” attitude, it’s almost impossible for new ideas presented by others to receive any form of consideration. Leaders exhibiting this type of behavior rarely have the ability to keep good people on staff.

Employees become exasperated by the leader’s inability to consider that someone else can think. Meetings with this type of leader become a lecture vs a give-and-take session. I have witnessed employees falling asleep in meetings as the leader rambles on and on as if to impress everyone with their knowledge.

Employees consider these meetings a waste of time, become reluctant to attend (sometimes communicate reasons that they cannot attend), and often find another place to work.

These are just a few of the behaviors that I have witnessed. Leaders often state to me – “I wish that I had employees who really care about their job, I wish I had employees that I could depend on. I wish my employees could understand what I encounter in trying to keep this business afloat.” I often in turn ask “Is it really the employees that are the problem? Have you considered what role you play in your employee’s behavior?”

As an operations/customer service consultant, I get a first-hand view of the internal workings of multiple companies. I have the privilege to observe corporate chemistry – how leadership interacts with employees, how employees interact with leadership, how employees interact with one another and how leaders and employees interact with customers.

I get to observe unspoken words cloaked in body language and behavior. When approached by frustrated leaders, it is necessary to be honest in regard to what I feel is creating a negative atmosphere – I sometimes have to tell them that they are the problem. Here are a few instances that I observed where the leader is the problem.

 

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helloFundamentals
Don’t Skip the Fundamentals!

It’s important to remember that being fundamentally sound will certainly help in the quest to operate a successful company. Now one can have a great product or service to offer to one’s market, but it’s the ability to operate in an efficient, employee and customer-friendly manner that will lead to long-term success. Here are a few fundamentals that I feel are important.

Leadership Fundamentals

Make sure that whoever is in charge has the ability to lead. Does this person possess the characteristics to properly lead a group of people? Do they have the ability to see the big picture and understand how all the pieces of the company function as a whole? Can this person think in times of duress versus making hurried decisions that may prove to be disastrous? Are they able to listen and empathize with the employees for whom they are responsible? Do they take the time to understand how the customer experiences the company’s products or services? These are just a few questions to consider for determining if your leaders possess the right fundamentals.

Hiring Fundamentals

One’s hiring process must be just that – a process. Does your company have a written hiring process? Can one quickly determine what steps are required when hiring a new employee? Is one able to identify what skill set a candidate should possess? Have you considered what type of interview methods to utilize – one on one or group interviews?

Training Fundamentals

Training is key to an employee’s ability to provide the best customer experience possible and to meet employer expectations. Does your company have a formal training program? Are employees probed for feedback regarding training effectiveness? Do not, Do not skip this fundamental!

Management Fundamentals

How one manages employees can determine how long they decide to remain with your company and will also impact the level of service received by your customers.

Do you have job descriptions and performance standards for each position in your company? Can you get employee performance results on a daily basis without having to ask employees for the information? Are there regularly scheduled feedback sessions – independent of the employee performance review? Do employees know what company key performance indicators impact their tasks? Are performance reviews objectively based or are they vague and subjective?

These are just a few of the fundamentals required for the long-term success of any company. Flash and dash is good, but fundamentals create the foundation on which to build a solid organization.

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helloIncreasing Customer Retention
4 Steps to Increasing Customer Retention

In these days of fierce competition, it’s crucial to do everything that one can to protect one’s customer base. The ability to retain customers is based on how well your internal operations run. While it’s important to smile and be nice to customers, it’s a good idea to make sure that your internal systems are able to consistently perform at optimum levels. Do you want better customer retention? Let’s take a look at how to get you there.

Map and Analyze Your Internal Processes

When working with clients, I always like to start here. Process mapping gives one an overview of what is actually happening within one’s company. Customers are impacted by your internal processes. How well your processes are constructed determines the level of service received by your customer.

Hand-off points and delays become clearly visible during this exercise. Process participants can communicate their requirements for completing their part of the process. Customer communication points can be identified. Process cycle time can be determined as well.

Create Consistency

It’s important that your company has a standard way of completing routine tasks. With your employees’ assistance, determine the best way to complete tasks and then develop standard operating procedures. These procedures become a guideline to follow to ensure consistent service delivery. This step also creates confident employees who can truly say “Yes – I do know how to complete that task.” Confident employees create happy customers.

Proactively Seek Feedback

Always, always, always proactively seek both customer and employee feedback. Where possible, attempt to get customer feedback immediately after their experience with your company. Solicit employee feedback regarding ways to improve internal operations. When you proactively seek feedback, the way your customers and employees view your company goes to another level. The information gained can be utilized to improve the experience received by both parties.

Analyzing Customer Complaints

It’s one thing to solicit customer complaints, but it’s another to analyze the complaint information. Look for patterns – is there an issue with one of your service offerings? What time of day are you receiving the most complaints?

Is there a particular location that generates the most complaints? On which day of the week do you receive the most complaints? Do the complaints point to a particular process within your company? Did the complaints start after a new product launch? Analyzing your complaints will point you in the direction of quick resolution of the complaint sources.

Want better customer retention? Look inside your business first. How you do what you do will determine how well you retain customers!

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helloInternal Communication Does Create Customer Experiences
Internal Communication Does Create Customer Experiences

In my role as an operations consultant, one of my primary goals when on a client assignment is to ascertain the level of inter-departmental communication.

I believe this is important as the level of service received by the paying customer is directly impacted by how well internal departments communicate with one another. How does one improve internal communication? Here a few items to consider implementing.

Map Your Internal Communication Processes

I recommend this for the first step as it will clearly identify where inter-departmental hand-offs or dependencies occur. Departments can then clearly see how and when they impact one another. For instance – How do sales affect operations? How do operations affect customer service? How does customer service affect field services? How do field services affect customer service? One can then determine if departmental requirements are being met.

This creates the need for cross-functional dialogue which leads to the understanding of departmental perspectives and needs. Discussion around what is needed, what the fulfillment of that need should look like, when that need should be provided, and how that need should be provided is a typical conversation that takes place after mapping processes.

Develop Internal Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for the Hand-offs or Dependencies

I always suggest that key performance indicators are developed to measure how well departments are servicing one another via hand-offs and dependencies. The goal for each KPI should be set at 100%.

For instance – if sales are responsible for gathering specific new customer or prospect information that is to be utilized by others within the company, how often is it actually being done? Or when customer service is tasked with advising customers of field services arrival time, is it in fact taking place? Now, this particular recommendation requires an effort to record how well the hand-offs and dependency KPIs are being met, but it’s important to have real data to discuss during inter-departmental communications. KPI results must be discussed on a regular basis.

This requirement promotes focused cross-functional communication and fosters teamwork within the company. Remember, when internal needs are not fully met, some form of rework is required to properly meet the required standard. Rework is a costly, inefficient use of an employee’s time.

Put Your Internal Customer’s Shoes On

In my opinion, one of the easiest ways to improve internal communication is to spend time with your internal customer as they perform their particular duties. One can then see up close and personal the impact of one’s actions. I feel that this should be a mandatory exercise as it has a three-fold effect:

1. Cross-functional communication is once again fostered.

2. Employees gain mutual respect for one another.

3. Employee morale improves. When one feels heard and understood and when one’s concerns are acted upon, one’s morale usually responds in a positive manner.

Want to improve internal communications? Try Mapping Your Internal Process to identify hand-offs and dependencies, Develop Key Performance Indicators for these hand-offs and dependencies and Put Your Internal Customer’s Shoes On. These three items are sure to create a lot of internal communication!

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