More About Mary
Got lots of feedback for the article, Something about Mary. Here’s some of it.
From a consultant:
A participant in a customer service training program was so relentlessly negative, bullying and overpowering that the facilitator decided that no one would benefit from her attending the second day. When she shared her recommendation with the client he agreed, and told her that a number of managers had bets on whether she would make it through the day with the highly disengaged employee. On Day 2, when she explained why “Mary” wouldn’t be joining the class, people couldn’t wait to distance themselves from her. They had been afraid to say anything while she was there. Turned out- she was their supervisor! Since everyone knew how bad she was at customer service, the question was: why did she work there, much less supervise other people? The answer? She was “good at her job.” Over 85% of her job was customer service and supervising people who provided customer service. What was she so good at? (Hint: the technical part)
Good communication skills are essential in any job that involves people, but particularly so in customer service jobs and jobs that involve managing people. Managers are role models. Imagine the impact this supervisor had on her customers and staff.
Technical skills are only one part of any job.
From Deb Allen, a former colleague of mine, about a woman with Mary’s problem:
This helped me, and others have used this as an example and found it effective.
I had a head teller, 60 years old, who had worked at the bank since she was 18, who decided that referrals and sales were not her business. She met with me and told me that. And asked what I was going to do about it. She had only 18 months to retirement. Couldn’t she coast? And her husband had just died. Yes, attitude. But also, real.
I breathed and said, well, let’s take little more time here, and how about you tell me what YOU CAN DO about it. She was puzzled. She wondered what I meant. I said:
“There are lots of things that you can do to help this effort and be seen as a leader. One is, let’s start choosing a new head teller and you start training her. It will be her job to do the sales/referral coaching, too. And then you stay involved and help by doing things, like making sure the brochure racks are full, and making sure the platform folks have their drawers stocked.” She nodded. She could see this happening. And then I said “and I need you to do the product training, one product every other week, for the branch. You’ve been here for years, you know our products.” And continue training new tellers on the mechanics, and do the audits, etc. And she agreed, and she did it all.
And retired 18 months later.
When you have the power and authority, consider finding options for long-time, valued employees when circumstances require significant changes to their job skills that they are unwilling or unable to make. There may well be mutually beneficial alternatives.
From my own chronicles:
Setting: Customer Service training program. (This is important information.)
Participant, sitting to my immediate left, listens for a while, then shares her take on customer service:
“I tell MY customers- you want customer service? Stew Leonard’s in up the street!”
Since it is not advisable for facilitators to roll their eyes, or slap anyone, all that was left for me was to sweep a hand around to include the rest of the room and ask how others felt about her comment. Everyone looked at the ceiling. All I could think was- the only way she could be good for the company would be if she worked for a competitor, because she’d definitely drive customers their way. How is customer service not part of your customer service job?
If you don’t know, Stew Leonard’s is a unique CT grocery store, famous for its extraordinary customer service. And singing cows, eggs, etc. And Newman’s Own, which launched there.
The company that employee worked for was acquired by another company with higher customer service standards.
Every leader and manager in a business needs to know what’s going on- really- on the front lines.
From a supervisor:
Trying to coach an employee who keeps missing out on promotion opportunities due to poor interpersonal skills. He has all the requisite technical skills, but had dismissed the importance of the interpersonal skills, pointing to many long-time employees who had similar jobs and poor people skills that were tolerated. He figured that since they’d been getting away with it, how was it an issue? However, the organization was changing, and his poor interpersonal skills were definitely holding him back. The fact that the long-time employees, WHO ARE SOON RETIRING, were getting away with something that was no longer acceptable for newer employees created a challenge for the supervisor, who had to help his employee understand that the jobs he sought now required good interpersonal skills, and that he had the choice to stay in his current job, or work with his supervisor on those skills.
When you have different sets of standards within an organization it creates confusion and resentment, which leads to disengaged employees, reduced productivity and increased turnover.
If communication skills are an integral part of a job, be sure they are clearly defined and included in job descriptions and job postings.
Effective coaching can help develop employee skills, but the employee needs to be a partner in the process, not an unwilling participant.
I’d love to hear from you! Please share your challenges, and successes, and I will pass them on.