I Can Help! May 29, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: Customer Service, Management Skills, Users
My mother tells the story of a friend who was caught in a power outage. The line for her house was down,keeping her from getting power even as other parts of town were being restored. Repeated calls to the power company had no effect as they busied themselves with other, more important areas.
Finally, in frustration, she called the power company and asked them to cancel the service call. “Why?” they asked. She explained that she knew they were very busy, dealing with all those other customers. Her husband, she said, was very handy, and was headed outside with a ladder to reconnect the drop line himself. They were aghast. “Don’t let you husband touch those lines!” “Oh, no,” she assured them. “It’s OK. We just want to help out, and this way you can send your people to fix other houses instead.”
A truck roared up in five minutes, and her power was restored.
At some point, every organization is a service organization, focused on internal or external customers. As we try to provide “fair” service, it can be easy to lose sight of one or two customers who warrant our attention even though they may not be as big or as important as other customers. What seems fair to us can seem completely unjust to those who are on the wrong side of the decision. That leads to frustration that forces customers to threaten unusual behavior to get our attention.
As we manage with limited resources, we need to keep in mind that every customer is equally important. While it may impossible to serve everyone at once, we need to find creative ways to serve everyone a little bit. The vast majority of customers are fair-minded; when they see that everyone is getting some measure of service, they tend to recognize that we’re doing the best we can in a tough situation.
This goes beyond IT issues like fixing PCs and resolving system errors. Some of us may be faced with allocating scarce products among competing customers. Others may have legal work or audits to be done under tight deadlines with limited personnel. It’s easy to tell everyone to just wait their turn as we honestly work to get to each customer as quickly as we can. In these days of instant gratification and rapid responses to everything, we need to find ways to provide a little bit of service to everyone, just so they know we understand their needs and are working to meet them.
This kind of incremental service isn’t easy and sometimes requires a complete rethinking of how we tackle problems. It may not always be necessary; sometimes we’re blessed with enough resources to take care of everyone at once. But we all need these skills when times get tight. If not, we’ll have customers reaching for live wires, and that causes problems that are a lot harder to solve.