07 October 2009

The great Customer Service ‘Come to Jesus’ Meeting

In my communications class we were talking about barriers to effective communications. One of the most prevalent barriers to communications that my work experienced early in its life was being too nice. I remembered a classic Customer Service ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting.

The problem was that we had good Customer Service staff. They were really good, so good in fact that they handled much work that belonged to other people. We found that they did other’s work so well that the others couldn’t do their own work, partly out of laziness and partly out of inexperience.

In the ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting we changed that we discussed the difference of being helpful and being really helpful. The difference in longevity. To be helpful, to do things for other people that they can handle themselves on a permanent basis, helps that person for a time. The downside is that they then become dependent and are indeed handicapped by the help. Without the continued effort and knowledge that is gained by experience over time you lose the ability to handle new events and even old events that should be routine. In life this can be seen by observing teenagers and young adults whose parents have coddled them their whole like. Then when they leave their parents they are incapable of handling real-life events (e.g. working for an employer, dealing with a parking ticket, having to be a real friend).

Instead of a helpful staff, we wanted a really helpful staff. To be really helpful is to teach people how to do things and then after a reasonable amount of training to stop helping the, thus making them do when they should have learned to do. To work with an old analogy: you need to teach a man to fish, but if you keep feeding him while he is learning then he has little incentive to become good at fishing. There was a marked difference after the ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting in the performance of the other workers. For a time, a painful time, the Customer Service staff helped train and explain how to do things and why they needed to be done but eventually they stopped assisting with the work and expected it to be done.

Over time performance was dramatically in almost every department. Further, people become smarter because they were able to gain experience through continued effort and thus expand their skill set. Over time, a painful time, we as an organization became stronger and more agile.

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