You cannot be perfect at customer service. The real fun comes, I believe, in the trying to be perfect, being passionate about achieving that which is impossible to attain.
That companies understand they cannot achieve service perfection but still keep trying, is an amazing thing to me. Contrast that with the many organizations that harp and hosanna about their customer service but seem always to have their fingers crossed. Right behind an illusionary curtain, there is often someone focusing on a cost-benefit analysis. They are the people that dumb down service to the extent that it is little more than an afterthought in the company values statement.
Those cost-benefit accountants say that service perfection is impossible to achieve and too expensive to even think about. Fortunately there are companies that reject that idea.
Organizations like Apple, while they know they are not perfect, invest serious money in developing customer-centered systems and staff training, trying to be the best they can be. It shows in their customer service, from the retail stores to their technical support people who are NOT warehoused in some remote part of the world, available only through inconsistent satellite telephone link. Compare Apple to Microsoft, with its still impressive profit margins and a large horde of cash. Microsoft still refuses to invest in trying to have top-tier customer service. Is it any wonder that sales of their tablets are less than impressive? Why buy a device from a company whose customer service for their core product, software, seems to be based on the concept of a necessary evil?
Even in your own neighborhood, you do not have to look long to find frustrating examples of a so-so commitment to service, even in businesses that should be all about service. Waiters in a fashionable hotel restaurant swap tables without bothering to tell dinner guests who grow frustrated trying to understand why the person who took their order is now ignoring them. Or bartenders fail to smile or call a regular guest by name when presenting their bill, and seem more interested in when the shift ends than ensuring a good experience. You can tell customer service is more of a slogan than a deeply ingrained value.
I love to be associated with clients and their employees who believe that while they may not be customer service perfect, it is wonderful and important to keep trying. They understand, delightfully, that it is that philosophy that separates them from their competitors who spend more time and energy trying to figure how much service they can afford to give.
These ideas are just as important in career management. In a period of continued high unemployment, it is interesting to me why more job candidates do not tout their customer service values and record of success. Now there is a real market differentiator.
Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference.
© 2014 John Gregory Self
The definition of what makes an ideal leader is evolving. In healthcare that evolution is about to kick into high gear.
An A+ leader is one who can excite and energize the troops to help them move through the dramatic shifts in how a business must operate in a global economy. Jack Welch, former GE Chairman and CEO, felt this was the essence of a good leader.
For 20 years Welch successfully led GE espousing that philosophy. Today the top business leaders of this decade relentlessly focus on finding executives who can energize and excite their personnel in leading more and managing less. The “lead more manage less” style is essential, especially in times of sweeping transformation of an industry like the one healthcare is facing today.
Command-and-control executives, whose style evolved from former military veterans who rose to senior leadership positions following World War II, will not be able to achieve long-term sustainable results necessary for business success. So, the first step to finding a career-enhancing cure is to find out if you have been afflicted with this deadly command-and-control style leadership virus.
The following test is vintage Welch, according to Robert Slater, former newsman and author who wrote two books on the GE CEO.
1. Do you think you hold more meetings than is necessary?
2. Do you believe you issue too many memos, electronic or otherwise? Remember, emails replace memos.
3. Do you find yourself approving most decisions made by your direct reports?
4. Do you find you are too hands-on in your direct reports’ decision making?
5. Do you feel that in monitoring and supervising, you create more red tape than is needed such as written approvals?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, there is every reason to be concerned. If you work in an organization whose corporate culture embraces this type of leadership, it is not too late to find another job.
Note: Mr. Slater, a journalist and the author of more than two dozen books, including biographies of figures as diverse as the Israeli leader Golda Meir, the businessman Jack Welch and the billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, died on March 25 in Jerusalem. He was 70.
© 2014 John Gregory Self
While John spends most of his time in Dallas or on the road, his official residence is in Tyler, Texas whose court system has summoned him for jury duty. In the meantime, this blog first appeared on March 25, 2014.
Continuing education is one lifeline for personal and professional growth. I just attended the American College of Healthcare Executives annual Congress in Chicago. While I was there primarily to serve as a faculty member, I got a chance to sit in on several sessions.
One interesting take away came from global healthcare futurist and consultant Dr. Virginia Richardson (previously with HealthCiertO, currently with The Institute for Leadership in Medicine) who predicted that once the declining cost of genetic risk testing fell to $350 it would become a standard of care for all Americans to know their risks for serious or even life-ending disease. With increasing numbers of Americans using their results to address personal health risks, and with dramatic improvements in treatment technologies to mitigate those conditions, we will see a significant extension in the average life span.
Then Dr. Richardson made an astounding statement:
“The first American who will live to be 125 has already been born,” she predicted.
After letting this amazing factoid sink in, and since I was at a meeting for hospital and healthcare executives, I began to realize that this eventuality will pose significant ethical and moral challenges for hospitals, Medicare, Social Security, and corporate retirement plans.
In a nation where our political and policy debate is becoming so polarized, how will we be able to address these very difficult issues? The way we conduct the nation’s business today — with vitriolic finger-pointing debates with the next election cycle as the most important outcome — seems so inadequate when you consider the seriousness of the moral and ethical challenges that this type of technological breakthrough will deliver.
Should healthcare leaders be content with our traditional role of adapting to the change or should we emerge as the leaders for this and other critical debates? How will issues like this reshape the leadership competencies of our next generation of healthcare leaders?
© 2014 John Gregory Self