Is Your Strict Adherence To Company Policy Getting in the Way of Customer Service?

Is Your Strict Adherence To Company Policy Getting in the Way of Customer Service?

I’m a nerd about processes. They create consistency and help set and meet client expectations. They work great—until they don’t. Sometimes companies go too far with their policies and procedures, beating employees over the head with them until they become drones following orders, unable to think critically in the moment to assist the customer. Even some owners become a slave to their policies, reciting them on cue to customers instead of having a conversation and finding solutions.

Case in point.

I was cursed (or blessed however you want to see it) with a massive amount of thick curly hair. After years of fighting it I have embraced it and haven’t straightened it in a long time. This means I can’t just walk into any salon and work with any stylist. I need a salon that knows how to deal with curly hair of all ethnicities and works with the existing texture without applying a flat iron to it.

So when I first moved to San Antonio I was in desperate need of a quality salon. I searched and was recommended a place that claimed to work specifically with curly hair. Their website showed pictures galore of women embracing their natural texture. Basically the site screamed “all hail curly hair!” They had an online booking system so I set an appointment. The day before my appointment I get a call from the receptionist. During that call she informed me that I had to straighten my hair before I came.

What?!

Yes, in order to get a natural curl cut I had to blow-dry and straighten my own hair (which I never do) to get it cut. I told her I never straighten my hair. Then she began the scripted response “our policy is to . . .” After three rounds of this she put her manager on the phone. I explained again that I don’t straighten my hair and that I have worked very hard to embrace and nurture my natural curls. The manager than began “our policy is” which I heard for at least five more rounds, ignoring every question I asked.

Neither the employee nor the manager ever stopped to ask me questions about why I felt the way I did or to explain why they do things they way they do. They didn’t try to have a conversation or get to know me or in any way. Instead they recited their policy from the get go and never strayed from the script. It was one of the most frustrating interactions I have ever had.

Needless to say they didn’t get me as a client.

This is just one example of how a strict adherence to policy (mainly reciting policy) became a failure in communication and customer service. If they had stopped to have a conversation with me and address my concerns, who knows I may have become a client and a firm believer in the “straighten before you go” mentality. Or they may have learned that their approach and strict policy was turning off a large portion of their target market and taken it as a learning moment to adjust their approach and gain more clients.

Yes policies and processes are important, but its also important to have some guiding principles that let employees handle and address issues in the moment in a way that doesn’t compromise the business and meets the needs of the individual customer. Employees (and owners) also need to be trained and encouraged to first listen and understand the client, instead of blindly reciting policies. Nordstrom is the prime example of this. We’ve all heard the stories, and some of them can get outrageous, but there is no doubt that Nordstrom has figured it out. They are always listening to their customers and they empower their employees to solve the customers’ problems and give stellar service in the moment.

Evaluate your policies and how you are training your team to use them. Are they getting in the way of customer service? Are they ignoring the needs of the customer? If the answer is yes, it’s time to reevaluate.

How Insecure Women Are Ruining The Workplace

How Insecure Women Are Ruining The Workplace

We’ve all heard the phrase “one bad apple ruins the whole bunch.” It’s a phrase that runs true in the workplace. It often only takes one impossible employee to undermine the team, erode the company culture, and drive away key talent. In many workplaces that bad apple is an insecure woman whose bad attitude, gossiping, and other antics negatively, and significantly impact the business.

Insecure women are ruining the workplace in the following ways:

They Undermine The Professional Value and Achievements of All Women

Insecure women give all women a bad rap. It’s unfair, but their behavior often becomes a stereotype that other women have to shake loose, especially when confident women find themselves the target of an insecure woman. I have seen many businesses adopt the “women can’t get along in the workplace” mantra, and in essence condone and perpetuate the behavior.

They Take Time Away From Critical Tasks And Value Generating Functions

Insecure women are major distractions for companies. If left unchecked they can quickly become a black hole of productivity, sucking energy out of the business and distracting management from other important tasks and goals.

They Lower Morale and Employee Engagement

Toxic behavior spreads like disease. Sigal Barsade calls this phenomenon “emotional contagion”. Once infected a teams performance drops, in some cases as much as 40% according to a Wharton study shared in this recent Inc. article on toxic employees. Once infected it takes a great deal of time, investment, and energy to reenergize the team. The long-term costs are a very real loss in dollars.

They Drive Away Talent, Especially Female Talent

Top talent in both sexes get equally fed up with toxic work place behavior and will actively look for (and find) employment with firms with better cultures and management. Female talent is usually the main target for insecure women. They quickly become a major burden to your best female employees. Many firms are already facing a talent shortage and paying high premiums to secure talent. The loss of talent has significant costs. According to the Inc. article “How Much Employee Turnover Really Costs You,” some of the costs associated with losing a valued employee include loss of knowledge, costs for searching for and onboarding replacements, and overworked staff, among others.

Although they are a challenge, companies and peers can proactively work to minimize and eliminate the effects these women have on companies.

What to do if you are the target of an insecure woman

As mentioned earlier, insecure women tend to target other women in the firm. Whether you are a man or a woman, she doesn’t have to become a roadblock to your success. Instead here are a few guidelines you can follow if you find yourself the target of an insecure woman.

Don’t Take It Personally

When an insecure woman attacks you its because she is threatened by you, but don’t take it personal. As Success Magazine Editor Emma Johnson stated in the March 2017 issue, “Cruel words, destructive behavior and thoughtless actions all stem from a dark place in the other person.” Anyone who aggravates or shines light on that dark place becomes a target, no matter what their gender or role is in the company.

Do Empathize With Her

Instead of blaming or accusing the other person, Emma Johnson suggests empathizing with the other person. They are acting out, and instead of holding their negative actions in your heart, let go so you can act professionally and proactively instead of reacting emotionally. Which brings up the next point . . .

Don’t Retaliate

Engaging at her level will only bring you down and take the focus away from her bad behavior and onto yours. It may be satisfying in the short run to fling that verbal jab or to throw her under the bus in the next meeting, but your long-term goal is to stop the behavior and protect your career. Don’t lose sight of that goal. Instead . . .

Do Inform Your Superior

Do tell a superior about any unprofessional behavior, but do so objectively and with a focus on its impact on the company, not you personally. Focusing on how the behavior negatively impacts the company keeps it from looking like a personal squabble. Also, don’t “tattle tell” every time she gets out of line, other wise you start to look like you have a personal vendetta. Instead, inform your supervisor of major infractions, especially those in front of coworkers or clients. Do keep a written account of all infractions though, regardless of importance, should the need arise to demonstrate cause for corrective action or termination.

Don’t Try And Pit Other Colleagues Against Her

When we feel attacked its natural to want to protect yourself and to go in search of the proverbial “strength in numbers” by rallying colleagues around you—and against her. This approach backfires every time. Instead . . .

Do Build A Support Network Around You

Even if you didn’t have a target on your back, it’s smart as a professional building a career to find allies and develop a support network around you. Do this by building relationships with as many people as possible, not just the higher ups, and do it by seeking first to provide value to your network. This way when you do need them to rally around you, they will want to have your back and can honestly say that you have acted with integrity and professionalism throughout.

Don’t Hide

Whatever you do don’t hide. Don’t avoid her, don’t avoid her network, and don’t avoid events you know she will be at. If you do, she effectively wins and is allowed to continue her bad behavior and target the next person. The more you stay present and professional, the more she will push, and eventually go too far and make a public display or send an inappropriate email giving you valid proof of the bad behavior (which you then take to your superior—don’t handle it on your own).

Do Try and Build a Positive Relationship with Her

If she is someone you have to work with, especially if she is on your immediate team, its best to try and build a positive working relationship wither, whether she reciprocates or not. You don’t have to go over board and become her friend and bribe her with treats, but you do need to be professional and supportive. This has one of two possible outcomes. One, she finally comes to her senses and stops or two; others see that you have conducted yourself professionally and she is holding a grudge. Either way your reputation stays clean.

What to do if you are a supervisor

If you are a supervisor dealing with an insecure woman you know it can be a landmine of potential lawsuits, internal turmoil, and more. However, as we discussed, the cost of ignoring it is much worse. You can tackle this issue and protect the company at the same time. Here’s how:

Don’t Ignore or Dismiss the Behavior

The absolute worst thing any manager can do is let the behavior continue. Avoiding it is the same as condoning the behavior. The more it continues the worse it gets until you suddenly have a major problem on your hands.

Do Address It Immediately and Directly

Instead be proactive and address the behavior immediately and directly—not forcefully-but in a firm and straightforward manner that eliminates any ambiguity. We will share more on how to do this in a moment.

Don’t Make It About Gender

Leave gender out of the equation, especially if it’s another female who raises concerns about the insecure woman’s behavior. I cringe when I hear managers say, “Why can’t women get along?” That’s a good way to invite a lawsuit. It also goes back to the first don’t of being dismissive of the behavior and assuming that all women behave this way. They don’t. Don’t devalue your good female employees.

Do Keep It Specific to the Behavior and Company Standards Not the Person

The best way to keep it from becoming about gender (and a lawsuit) is by focusing on the behavior and company policies, and not the person. The books Crucial Conversations and Difficult Conversations give great examples of how to have the tough conversations. Revel Gordon with Smart Company also provided some helpful guidelines on handling difficult conversations in his recent post on challenging conversations.

Overall, don’t let insecure women run rampant in your organization. They do nothing to grow and develop the company and only get worse over time. Show you value the entire team and protect your company by being proactive, professional, and direct.

Is Your Company’s Values Statement Total B.S.?

Is Your Company’s Values Statement Total B.S.?

Most companies these days have a values statement. Sometimes it’s that nice framed declaration in the reception area or it’s the opening page of the employee manual. Often the values statement came about as a required exercise from some consultant or because one of the managers read about it in some book. Its drafted, filed, sometimes framed, and then usually forgotten. Employees often don’t know it exists, and over time your business choices and daily operations fall so far out of line with the values you claim to stand for, that your company’s values statement has become just another worthless piece of paper.

Which is a huge mistake.

Your values statement is the Ten Commandments for your business. It’s the guiding principles through which you will judge every staff member’s conduct, every business decision, and every corporate initiative. If everyone in your company can’t state what you stand for and if your business decisions and operations don’t reflect your values statement, then I’m sorry to say that your company’s values statement is total B.S. Its time to fix it.

Values Statement Best Practices

Focus on the Top 3-5 Values that Matter Most to You

Its easy to get caught up in thinking that if it doesn’t end up on the list, it will appear that you don’t value it, so you cram everything on there. People and organizations have many values, but there are always 3-5 values that are the most important, that exist without compromise or exception, and which fuel the passion and energy of the business. Those are your core values. It may be difficult narrowing it down to just 3-5, but the clarity and focus it will bring to your strategy, culture, and activity is invaluable.

Define and Share Your Values

After you nail down your top 3-5, write out in a single, brief paragraph what they mean to you. A value to one person can mean something different to another. Define what it looks like in action, in words, and then place your statement where everyone who interacts with your business can see it. This includes on your website, employee break rooms, employee training materials, strategic planning documents, and yes the proverbial framed statement over the reception desk.

Use it as Your Litmus Test

Your values statement is the test you apply to every decision you make and how you, your employees, your customers, and vendors conduct themselves. When onboarding any client or reviewing a business decision ask yourself, “is this in line with our value statement? Does this customer uphold our values or will they ask us to compromise what matters most to us in order to deliver their product? Does this vendor hold themselves to the same standards we do?” If the answer is no, then don’t do it.

Your values statement isn’t just a feel good exercise. It’s a daily practice in focus and purpose. It helps you make the decisions to achieve what you want to achieve and be the kind of company you want to be. Don’t let it gather dust.