Last week I called a client. After a short conversation with the person who answered the phone (I have trained her so asked how she was etc), I asked to speak to the person I had phoned for. ‘He’s not in today’ was the reply. I asked if he was in the next day…..’I've got no idea’ she responded in a rather glib tone.
Given that I’ve worked with this client for a while, I know that there are shared calendars in place where everyone can see everyone else’s whereabouts. She may have been having a bad day but to me on the end of the phone it felt like she simply didn’t care.
The person I was calling for is in a senior sales role and her response made me wonder if she’d have said the same thing to a client….and if she did what would their reaction have been? The bigger question though, is how often do people respond in an unsatisfactory way in spite of processes, vetting checks and sheer pride in doing a good job which should ensure that they always go the extra mile?
Organisations spend alot of money investing in processes to manage just this kind of situation but how many are trying to change staff behaviours in the same way? If you discovered that someone in your team was speaking to people on the phone in a glib and off hand way is changing the processes for phone answering or addressing their behaviour the solution? I would argue that it’s both but that changing a process is easier; review what’s happened, what went wrong with the process, redefine the process. Job done. But it isn’t is it? It’s probably time to have that difficult conversation….’What prompted you to respond like that? What pressures were you under that meant you couldn’t out a bit of effort in to the caller? How can we relieve those pressures and how can we help you cope better with them?’ Such conversations are without doubt harder than changing a process but I believe that the rewards are both greater and longer lasting.
On the back of this one small experience I would encourage all managers to listen more carefully to what’s going on around them and not assume that everything is always happening the ‘right’ way. I will be talking to this person’s manager to feedback my experience later in the week. And if you see some unsatisfactory performance, ask yourself if you need to review the process or make time for a difficult conversation. If you don’t, what are your suplliers, customers and potential customers really thinking when they get in touch?