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Then a TPM reader named James Schaefer submitted a killer article called "Troubleshooting Declining Sales". This article discusses problems with modern customer service, and then proposes some solutions.
And like most articles, it raises further questions. You can give your employees training, but HOW do you motivate them to learn it and use it? Rather than giving a theoretical answer, I interviewed a Long John Silver's manager who has implemented most of what Mr. Schaefer advocates. In describing that implementation, it was clear that the subject of this TPM issue must be "leadership". That's how the theme for this month's Linux Log came to be.
Leadership. It's not rocket science, but few people understand it. It's often discussed, but too rarely practiced.
What does leadership have to do with you? Simply stated, if you're a great Troubleshooter, sooner or later you'll lead a project, at which time you'd better know the process of leadership. So kick back and relax as you read this issue. And remember, if you're a Troubleshooter, this is your magazine. Enjoy!
|Copyright © 2002 by James Schaefer. This material may be distributed
only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication
License, version Draft v1.0, 8 June 1999.
Open Publication License Option A is not elected, so this document may be modified. Option B is not elected, so this material may be published for commercial purposes.
Declining sales, disappearing long-time customers, increasing customer-complaints, and ballooning sales returns and allowances are often the result of a "the customer's never right" approach to customer service. This is a sure-fire recipe for business failure, and should be corrected before it is too late.
Today's business lingo includes terms such as total quality management, continuous improvement, and customer satisfaction. However, these concepts often don't filter down to the customer. Instead the operative business attitude seems to be "the customer's never right." There are several reasons for this attitude:
|Sadly, the above is not the exception but the rule. Every week I have my dog's mattress laundered. Sometimes at $6.50, sometimes at $8.50, sometimes at $10.50. After talking to a manager, we agreed on $8.75 (they raised their prices). I could go on, but you understand. The point is that if workers knew the menu better than the customer, we'd all be more satisfied.|
|I worked as a waiter while in college. Most of the servers dreaded working Sundays, as the lunch crowds mainly consisted of families who didn?t tip, while the evenings were slow, with only a few business customers. However, I learned that Sundays could be just as profitable as any other day. Families appreciated menu recommendations, especially the more affordable specials, of which they were often unaware. Business people rewarded attentive service, such as prompt beverage refills, extra bread, etc. A few large tips are more profitable (and a lot more fun) than a lot of small tips. The diner who gives a big tip is rewarding the person responsible for good service.|
Yet I feel cheated. I feel a need to prove constantly that I'm right,
when all I'm asking for is satisfaction. Perhaps the right people will
read this, and I won't feel that, as a customer, I'm always wrong.
Management needs to take a TQM approach to worker training. This will necessitate a series of small, incremental training sessions, beginning with the first interview. Employees should not be allowed to meet the public until they have demonstrated product knowledge, a positive attitude, and a willingness to work. Management needs to implement training that communicates established policies and procedures and ensures that workers understand and follow them.
A first logical step is to assess the skill of the workers you can hire. People without much work experience can't be expected to exercise sound judgment. People with extensive work experience won't find highly repetitive tasks rewarding. Remember, assess, then implement.
What motivates low-skilled workers? Remember we're not talking about the typical Troubleshooters.Com reader, who might respond to title, recognition, challenge, and opportunity. We're talking about people who are not secure economically, probably not well-educated, and who may have led relatively joyless lives.
While large-scale pay increases may not be affordable (or even warranted), ask your employees what they need. For example, single mothers with young children might respond to day care opportunities for their children. Parents who aren't worried about what is happening with their young children will be much better at meeting the public. To older workers the actual physical work environment may be an important factor. In any event, compensation schemes (pay and benefits) should always be reevaluated periodically.
Some will argue that their organization can't afford to make a bigger investment in training lesser-paid workers. But you can't afford not to. If workers are not properly trained and supervised, they will greet customers with "their attitudes." Can you afford that?
Is the solution to teach "the customer is always right"? Probably not, because there are some mighty strange customers, and unless management is ready, willing and able to fully refund a five year old pair of shoes whose soles wore out, "the customer is always right" is not the answer. And you'll note that Jim doesn't advocate a return to "the customer's always right", but instead seeks merely to give the customer good service by eliminating the following customer hostile employee and management behaviors:
If you're anything like me, you want to learn more. You can throw training at employees, but how do you motivate them to learn? Certainly fixing their daycare problems is one thing that will help, but only in certain cases. Matching the right person to the right job helps, but that's easier said than done. I'm still left with the question, "how do I motivate them?". This is an especially relevant question when the pay is low and it's easy for them to get an equivalent job. Many of them are young and plan to move on in a matter of months.
Albert Einstein once said "The mere formulation of a problem is far more often essential than its solution". Jim Schaefer has formulated the problem with insight and precision. In doing so, he's done the most essential work.
But execution is still necessary. For that we turn to Dennis Watson. Read on...
Meanwhile, a mile down the road at Long John Silver's, manager Dennis Watson had molded a crew, gathered from the exact same labor pool, into a cracker jack outfit. The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and it's very easy to eat there. There's seldom a line to order, and when there is, it's quickly dispatched. The orders are almost always right. The prices are consistent between employees and over time. Often the food is ready in two minutes, but if it's any longer you sit down and they bring it to your table. And everyone's just so nice!
One day when Dennis wasn't in the store, I heard one employee tell another to try to get his friend to work at the Apopka Long John Silver's, because it's the best place to work. How often do you hear an employee complement his company like that? From then on, whenever I ate there, I made it my business to observe how Dennis ran the restaraunt.
I listened to how he interacted with the crew. I listened as he mentored managers in training. I tuned in to the crew meetings at which they enthusiastically discussed various techniques for maintaining cleanliness, reducing shrinkage, selling food, and most important, improving the eating experience of their guests. Everyone took pride in their work.
So it's natural that while reading the details of Jim's Schaefer's article, I kept saying to myself, "hey, Dennis does that". I called up Dennis, interviewed him for five minutes, and struck gold. If you want to learn how to execute Jim Schaefer's suggestions, follow Dennis Watson's lead.
He went on to say that he helps his employees develop pride by taking on the role of a mentor, and managing by example. He mentioned specifically that he never asks anyone to do something he wouldn't do himself.
At Long John Silver's, each employee goes through a regimented training program. It's paid training, in a live store setting with the store manager as a mentor. The employee keeps performing tasks until he or she conforms to the guidelines.
At this point I remarked that evvvvvvvry business trains their employees, but Dennis is unusually successful at getting the trainees to actually learn. What was he doing differently?
Dennis said that he teachs employees to treat the restaraunt's guests as they'd like to be treated themselves. He says the people who come in are not customers, they're guests in your home. They're called guests, not customers. He shows guests and employees alike that he cares. He reiterated the management by example, and that he wouldn't ask anyone to do anything he wouldn't do himself.
When asked for any final thoughts, Dennis ticked off some additional tips for managers:
Now let's turn to Jim Schaefer's "Workers without much to do don't do much" discussion. The Apopka Long John Silver's crew initially appears not to have all that much to do. There's seldom frantic activity, even at dinner rush. But look a little closer and you'll see they do plenty. During slack time there's cleanup, or possibly even disassembling tables to do a thorough cleaning. The place is spotless, so when the inevitable rush comes, they can devote full energy to serving the customer in front of them.
Another reason the LJS crew has so little to do is they do it right
the first time. No botched orders to recook. No time consuming customer
arguments. None of the hassles that consume huge time at the anonomous
restaraunt down the street. If you've read much Stephen Covey, you recognize
that the LJS crew is working in Covey's second quadrant:
|Important||Quadrant 1||Quadrant 2|
|Not important||Quadrant 3||Quadrant 4|
As Covey points out, quadrants 3 and 4 aren't important, so why do them. And quadrant 1 is underproductive firefighting. By keeping activities in quadrant 2, the LJS crew prevent problems from going urgent and decreasing efficiency. Bottom line -- they make it look easy.
As long as I'm quoting authorities, let me also quote W. Edwards Deming. Here are Deming's famous 14 points:
It makes sense. If you take pride in something, you'll affirmatively try to improve. You'll try to learn everything you can in order to improve your ability. You'll try to "move up the ladder". If your pride is team based, you'll go the extra mile for your team.
On the other hand, if there's no pride, what's your motivation? Only fear. It could be fear of losing your salary, or fear of losing your health benefits or pension, or fear of telling your spouse you messed up yet again. Deming's point 8 clearly shows he's not a big fan of fear based motivation. But why not? There's no doubt it's a powerful motivator. Ask any loan shark or cop.
One problem is fear is a personal motivator, not a team motivator. A fearful group tends to argue with each other, "tattle" on each other, and perform CYA duties when they should be doing useful work. Also, although fear can motivate, such motivation often results in subnormal productivity. The panicked person cannot think logically, and therefore cannot produce.
Also, it's very difficult for an employer to inspire true fear. The worst he can do is fire the employee. While that might motivate a middle aged middle manager with five kids in private school, all of whom have serious medical conditions, it's no sweat for the average fast food worker in his or her teens or twenties.
Another problem with fear is that it stops motivating the instant it's gone. A worker motivated only by fear will be gone the day somebody else makes him a job offer. And because fear produces hate, the quitting employee often takes revenge. You really want to keep this in mind if your company has any unauthorized copies of proprietary software, or if they've cheated on hours, overtime, vacation, equal opportunity, environmental regulations, accounting practices, taxes, or the like. Sometimes the employer actually has more reason to fear than the employee.
One might argue that money is a motivator. But it motivates until the day it's given, after which only fear of losing that money motivates. A promise of money can motivate for awhile, but withhold too long and it can backfire. Money is one of the more powerful ways of recognizing an employee's worth, and therefore can instill pride. Beyond that, as long as the pay is sufficient to take care of the employee's and his family's basic needs, it's not a primary motivator.
But it's not just Dennis. Once or twice I overheard Dennis's boss, the district manager, train managers. It sounded the same as when Dennis does it. The same mentoring, the same pleasant conversation, the same respect, and the same technical details. This leads me to believe that the entire Long John Silver's chain has been trained consistently, and that part of their training is how to train. It's a powerful formula for business scalability.
Is Dennis a great manager because Long John Silver's trained him to be, or because an outfit like Long John Silver's attracts top performers like Dennis? Hard to say, but in the end it doesn't matter -- they seem to have consistently excellent performance throughout the enterprise.
Every Long John Silver's I've visited had excellent service. Contrast that to the chain affilliated with the unnamed restaraunt down the street. That chain's customer service varies widely with time and restaraunt, and tends in general to be slow and error prone. Perhaps training employees how to train others, coupled with intelligent company policies and respect for those polices, enables quality to be uniformly applied across the enterprise.
A friend was hired into a large organization whose policy was a 3 week vacation after 5 years service (2 weeks before that). In her fifth year, there was a huge recession and the company cut everyone's vacation down to a week. Broken promises, no matter how necessary they might seem, shift focus from pride in workmanship to petty career decisions.
I worked 2 years for a company, producing splendid software solutions and getting regular raises. Then they hired in a guy from the outside for 30% more than my salary. I just wasn't as enthusiastic after that, and a year later I was working for someone who paid me what I was worth. The guys who underpaid me went out of business.
As long as an employee can feed, house, educate and provide health care for himself and his family, money is not a primary motivator. But their salary sends a powerful message about the employer's true appreciation of their worth. To be competitive, an organization cannot pay salaries grossly in excess of market salaries for equivalent work. Pay market value, and be up front about it. Employers playing tricks with the employee's time and money are penny wise and dollar foolish.
For instance, mouth the phrase "we want our employees to be entrapeneurial", when everyone knows there's a 5% cap on raises. Employees have read the dictionary and know that an entrapeneur who quadruples profit will quadruple his salary.
Then there's the manager who pontificates "we're a team" to his troops, and then takes all the credit (and most of the bonus) for the team's accomplishments.
Forgo those lofty sounding names for programs of the month. Employees know that the only true "employee enrichment program" is a raise or real training on real job skills.
Respect their intelligence. Give them the authority to do the job they've been given.
The word "techie" is an insult to the intelligence of technical workers. The implication is that technical workers have no interpersonal skills. Technical workers know that's not true. In fact, when it comes to persuasiveness, many managers would fair far worse than the average technologist if prevented from lying and backstabbing.
And how about those smarmy "team building" exercises. The employees stopped going on treasure hunts are in grade school. Instead, give the team a real problem, real authority to solve the problem, and real compensation as a team when they solve it. They're smart enough to do the rest.
As mentioned in previous articles, your success in training employees is proportional to the amount of pride they take in their jobs. And to a large extent, their pride is proportional to your respect for their intelligence.
You hire your employees to be smart. Treat them accordingly!
If you're a great troubleshooter, it turbocharges others' perceptions of your intelligence and competance. That means sooner or later you'll be chosen for management or to lead a project. Will you soar like an eagle, or trudge like a turtle?
You've been heavily trained in the process of Troubleshooting, and are intimately familiar with the Universal Troubleshooting Process. You have a process to accomplish troubleshooting. But do you have a process for management? Probably not.
Although I can't give you a process for management, I can tell you this: The previous articles in this issue of Troubleshooting Professional Magazine clearly show that management by example and associated techniques are necessary for employee pride, which is necessary for employee motivation, which is necessary for employee training, which is necessary for employee performance. Article Troubleshooting Declining Sales shows you what needs to be done, and article Quality in Action: Long John Silver's in Apopka shows you how to do it.
So bookmark this page, and the minute you suspect you might be tapped to lead a project, come back and reread this page.
That ended a few days ago, when my wife asked me to help with several Eudora emails on her Win98 machine. Eudora's search facility is a mere shadow of Kmail's. If Eudora has a way of moving to the next email without going to the list, I couldn't find it. I found myself cursing Eudora's name, and longing for my beloved Kmail.
I'm starting to have a similar experience with my other beloved Ex, Microsoft Word. It was love at first sight between Word and myself, after we met in 1994. Even though Word didn't age gracefully (Word97 was much quirkier than Word95 or Word6), it was still the greatest outliner and the greatest book writer. Once again, when I moved from Windows to Linux I had to leave Word behind. Like so many before me, when I lost my one true love, I cynically played the field, with VimOutliner for outlining, LyX for books, letters, and articles destined for paper, and Abiword for simple wordprocessing.
But last week, after a printer jam, I had to print part of "Rapid Learning: Secret Weapon of the Successful Technologist" directly from Word. What a mess! First, Word doesn't print to Postscript (or at least I don't know how), so I couldn't print just part of the print image. Trying to print from the actual document, it took me several times to get it to duplex. I was worried sick that Word would do something wierd to my document, and I realized how much I've taken LyX for granted. I'm now trying to find the easiest way to migrate the 317 page "Rapid Learning: Secret Weapon of the Successful Technologist" from Word to LyX.
It's odd the way we think about Ex's. Often the Ex was loved as much for the circumstances as for the Ex herself. Compounding the matter is the fact that even after we break up and circumstances change, we tend to forget the bad stuff. There's the Ex, up on a pedestal. And then one day we see our Ex again, and after a brief heart flutter, we see the midriff bulge, the scruffy hair, and the nasty temper. And we remember once again why we broke up, and why our current love is so special.
MS Word and Eudora were once a part of my life, and I'll always remember them, and maybe even always love them. But Kmail's a better mail client, VimOutliner's a better outliner, and LyX is a better book writer.
Word and Eudora lite are relegated to my scrapbook, and maybe someday I'll look through it and say "I remember her. She was a cutie, but I can't remember her name!"
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