Remember when companies had slogans like “the customer always come first”? Or, “It takes months to find a customer and only seconds to lose one.” Something changed and we don’t hear that phrases like those much any more unless the slogan is embedded in a letter of apology to customers. Instead, the phrase of the day could be, Customers Are Pissed Off and Armed with Cell Phones.
Usually when one thinks of airline disasters the thought of crashes and life or death situations come to mind. But there were two recent airline disasters, both involved customers and are the best examples of what many believe to be the current state of customer service. Videos of the incidents went viral because we can all imagine ourselves being in the same customer service crisis. But enough about the airlines, when it comes to customer service, they are easy targets. Something more pernicious has had an impact on customer relations.
Somewhere along the line the concept of judgment fell out of the customer service manual. It is the lack of judgment that is killing customer service and being caught on those videos. When it comes to customers, sometimes a little common sense and taking a real assessment of what is happening is more important than the rule. Employee manuals and policies are missing the mark when it comes to dealing with customers because the word judgment is missing. The best employee manual I’ve ever seen is from Nordstrom. The rule is: “Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.” In the case of the airline fiascos, the policy was being followed but a little judgment on the part of the airlines would have made a world of difference.
Now we are all armed. We want to catch an employee following a rule that flaunts good judgment. Go ahead we dare you. We know the damage that one cell phone video can do to a large organization Every organization take heed. The real lesson in all the customer relationship issues today seems to be the lack of judgment exercised by employees. Lots of viral videos can be avoided if only judgment would interact with policy and rules.
Here are some examples of what the new customer service slogans could be:
- Please Don’t Take a Video, I Am Following Company Policy
- Customers Deserve Good Judgment, Not A Bad Policy
- I May Get Fired, But the Customer is Right
- Superior Customer Service Means We Break the Rules
- Discretion and Dedication For Customers
What’s your customer service slogan?
Once upon a time large corporations visited college campuses to recruit seniors for “management training” programs. For some seniors, the training program solved the problem of “I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but this will be a way to get me started in the real world.” Companies like IBM, Procter & Gamble, Accenture and many others were leaders in management training. At the end of the program the trainees had a good grasp of what it took to be successful and were on their respective ways. The management training programs took ambitious people, regardless of their majors.
In those same times, ads were plentiful in classified sections seeking management trainees. If you missed the on campus recruiters you could look in the classifieds of the New York Times and declare how eager you were to learn and land a spot in the management trainee program at an advertising firm or PR agency.
Companies would not only hire accountants to be accountants; these companies would hire English majors and marketing majors as well as most other majors to learn their business from the ground up. It was a place to jump in the water over your head to see what you can do and what you like. Those days are mostly over.
But there are still companies who believe in “the best available athlete” mentality and management training. That is, some companies will take someone with the right attitude and a willingness to learn can develop into a leader and make the business better. There are just not as many.
The biggest entry-level employer for 2017 is Enterprise Rent-A-Car This year alone, the company plans to hire 9,500 college graduates into its management training program.
Any college president wants the graduates to grow professionally, find a rewarding career and be personally satisfied regardless of the employer. Most importantly, for graduates to have a smooth transition from the brutal transition from college to the real world. Management training programs can do just that.
Here are a few things I know about the best management trainee programs:
- They’re not elitist – Enthusiasm, performance and motivation are valued more than where you went to college. You don’t have to have an MBA or a computer science degree to excel. The best ones and the big ones hire students from all majors. (English majors of the world rejoice!)
- They offer the chance to go from entry-level to CEO – They give people a chance to prove themselves and grow their careers without leaving. If he CEO started out as a management trainee, that’s a good program.
- They allow risk taking accountability. – The best ones give the trainees real responsibility from day one, and the freedom to show what they can do.
- They provide a clear path forward – Every trainee is given a “roadmap” – a set of skills they’re expected to master within a certain timeframe. Not only does it help promote accountability, it also helps trainees continue to meet new career goals.
- They show a team matters – When coworkers are invested in helping each other succeed, everyone succeeds. If a manager is measured on his or her ability to retain and develop employees, that’s a good training program.
- They measure progress and reward it fast – Promotions should be based on performance, not tenure.
One of the most heavily searched words on all the career and job sites is “management trainee”. If you go that route, look at the actual program and path forward.
It was all over the news. Two young women were denied access to board a United Airlines flight because they were wearing leggings. In this instance, the dress was inappropriate and violated the dress code. (In fairness to United, the women were flying on an employee pass and the airline does have a specific dress code for those flyers.) Guys like me aren’t even sure what leggings are or if they’re appropriate for flying. Old timers are now reminiscing about the days when you dressed up to get on an airplane. Men wore jackets and ties, women wore dresses. Times have changed.
Figuring out a dress code today is like asking the “Magic 8 Ball” a question. When you turn it over, the answer on the little screen is “Answer Hazy, Try Again”. Formal dress codes do still exist and, depending on where you work, are usually not open for interpretation. If the dress code calls for a shirt with a collar, that’s what you wear.
It’s the informal dress codes, suggested dress codes or “figure it out on your own” lack of codes that create the mental havoc.
When the Evite hits the screen, business casual is the most often suggested dress. Does business casual mean a blazer and khaki pants or blue jeans and a T-shirt? Or, at some Silicon Valley events, business casual means cargo shorts and a T-shirt.
Business attire in most worlds means wear a tie for a man and get dressed up for a woman. But no one wears ties anymore. In some places wearing a tie is really weird and makes you look like a Grandpa.
What the heck is cocktail attire? Based on some parties I have attended, cocktail attire means wear something that you can spill your drink on.
Does black tie optional mean I should wear a black tie or not? This designation raises an entire spectrum of follow on questions like: If I wear a tux will I be the only one? Should it be a dinner jacket or a black tux? Does black tie really mean black tie or can I wear a blue tie? If the event is that fancy, do I even want to go?
Women have an even more difficult time figuring out the dress code puzzles.
Everyone defines the dress code differently today, depending on age. But there are still rules and good judgment does apply. My rules are simple: Wear what’s comfortable; wear what’s age appropriate; and, wear something that won’t get you into trouble. And never under estimate the power of a blue blazer.