May 28

CUSTOMER SERVICE CORNER: Avoid becoming a customer’s horror story

horror-storyCustomers love to pass on stories about the terrible service they’ve received. Warning: Don’t be their horror story!

Being a pro in the business, you’ve probably passed along a customer-service horror story of your own. Think of a time when a waiter was rude to you or a shop assistant preferred yakking on her cell phone to helping you check out. If you’re like most people, you probably let a couple of your friends and family members know about this bad experience and included the name of the business — and perhaps the offending employee — in your anecdote.

Although work can often be busy and stressful, resist the urge to ignore customers or snap at them by thinking of the impression you’ll create. The negative vibe created by poor service doesn’t end once the customer gets off the phone or leaves your place of business. It goes home with her, and you might very well wind up the main character in her favorite tale of poor service.

But remember that the storytelling impulse works both ways. Customers recall the exceptionally good service as well as the exceptionally bad. If you give a customer excellent service, she’s likely to let her friends know about it, and they in turn will be more likely to patronize your business.

So instead of becoming your customer’s worst nightmare, aim to be their best customer service dream team!

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Apr 07

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Pay attention to your micromessages

micromessagesYou could be devaluing and discouraging your employees’ performance at work without even knowing it, experts warn. If you skim your e-mail while an employee is trying to talk to you or if you always forget an employee’s name, you could be sending your subordinates negative “micromessages,” states Stephen Young in his book, Micromessaging.

These subtle and usually subconscious negative micromessages (also called MicroInequities) can hurt employees’ self-esteem and impair their performance in the workplace, says Young, a diversity and leadership expert. But positive micromessages, (also called MicroAdvantages) can have an equally powerful impact, he notes in his book.

“While most of us are unaware of the 2,000 to 4,000 micromessages we send each day, they are the cornerstone that determines short- and long-term performance, employee loyalty, and organizational culture,” Young explains. “The intrigue is how senders are mostly unaware of receiving them, yet mysteriously they are sent, received, and most importantly, acted on, blindly altering workplace performance and collegial relationships.”

Doing something as simple as looking at your watch when an employee is speaking can send a negative micromessage to him, Young warns.

The first step to eliminating negative micromessages that could harm your workplace environment is to be more aware of what kinds of micromessages you’re sending to employees.

  • Don’t turn away, shuffle papers or look at something on your computer screen when an employee is talking to you. This sends the micromessage that what he has to say is not important to you.
  • Do give the employee your full attention to send a positive micromessage. Make and hold eye contact with him while he’s speaking, and lean forward to show that you’re interested in what he’s telling you.
  • Don’t chit-chat with one employee or lavish special attention on one worker in particular. Doing so tells other employees that they aren’t as important.
  • Do give equal time and attention to all your employees. If you say “Good Morning” to a few of your employees, be sure to say it to all of them.
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Feb 10

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Use your controlling nature to help — not hurt — your management skills

controlling-natureEven the most rule-loving employee will wilt under a controlling supervisor who micro-manages every project or idea.

But your controlling nature could be your best friend, says Cheryl Cran, author of the new book The Control Freak Revolution: Make Your Most Maddening Behaviors Work For Your Company and To Your Advantage. Try these strategies for turning negative habits into positive influences:

  • Examine your behavior. Before you can put a positive spin on your behavior, you must acknowledge the problem. Analyze how you react when your employees address issues or concerns about their work. Do you criticize their performance or downplay their intelligence? Once you can pinpoint how your behavior is getting in the way, you can begin to change it.
  • Admit when you’re wrong. Just because you’re the supervisor doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong. Often, controlling leaders make mistakes by forcing others to perform tasks in pre-defined ways rather than allowing their employees to work independently. When this happens, you must take a step back, admit that you were wrong and determine how to fix the problem in a way that plays up everyone’s strengths.
  • Know the personalities on your team. While some employees will thrive under your diligent attention to their work, others may dread seeing you come around the corner. Try this: Give your employees a short personality quiz to find out who needs your input and who works better when given more freedom. You can find quick quizzes online, such as the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Once you understand your workers’ many personality types, you can better cater your management style to fit their needs.
  • Inspire — don’t “fix” — your employees. It’s easy to tick off all the negative traits you’ve spotted in your employees. What’s harder is inspiring your team to improve. Employees can sense when your suggestions are more about fixing a problem than providing them with an opportunity to learn and grow. First step: The next time you offer to send an employee to a seminar to boost a specific skill, such as time management, try to focus on how the seminar will help her accomplish her professional goals (e.g., juggle more responsibility) rather than noting that it will “fix” any current problems (e.g., her tendency to miss deadlines).
  • Bask in your employees’ success. We all want to be recognized for our work, but if you take all the credit for your employees’ success, you’ll alienate and demoralize your team — neither of which lead to a productive working environment. Instead, pat your employees on the back and let others know how much you appreciate their work.
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Dec 02

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Guide your workers to a job well done

guide-employeesLetting your workers know how well (or not so well) they’re doing their jobs isn’t just part of your job. Informing them of what they’re doing right and where they need improvement gives them guidance. This guidance prevents them from just plodding through their days and tells them what to focus on.

Using specific examples of good and not-so-good work gives your workers concrete situations to refer to so they know exactly what to improve on. When you have a not-so-good review to dish out, you must give an employee specific examples of why he isn’t meeting your expectations.

For example: Rather than tell him “Your job performance has been low and you need to shape up or hit the road,” tell him “I noticed you’ve been late three times this week and haven’t made any of your production goals What can I do to help?” Giving negative feedback to a worker is never easy, but you can follow these tips to ease the burden:

  • Always cite the specific task he needs improvement on. Keeping track of your workers on a regular basis instead of trying to come up with review points at the last minute will help to make this process smoother.
  • Always offer to help him fix the problem in any way that you can. If your worker needs more training, schedule some time to work with him.
  • Never displace your anger on him. Even if you’re frustrated with his performance, getting angry with him will only make him defensive.
  • Never give an employee negative feedback in front of other employees. Instead, find a quiet place and a good time to talk.
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