Karen Cherrett Consulting

All about People – Process – Projects

exceptional customer service

What makes exceptional customer service?

Exceptional customer service, we all know it when we get it and yet, can we describe what makes it so.

I’m going to have a try, based on my own customer service experiences.  Let’s see if these resonate with you too.

For me exceptional customer services contains the following mix of things:

Listening

I want to be listened to. For me that means the person serving me is facing me, looking me in the eye and responding to what I am saying.

Attentiveness

The dictionary definition is… “the action of paying close attention to something”

I want that something to be ME.

Are you paying close attention to the fact that I have come into your store to buy something, from YOU?

Helpfulness

What I want is to have help available when I want it.

If I walk up to you, to ask for assistance, be helpful.

Don’t give me a story, to make yourself look big.

Give me something of value.

Flexibility

Be flexible – “The ability to be easily modified” (Dictionary definition)

I want the person to be comfortable with me changing my mind, or direction whilst we are engaging.

Meeting or exceeding my expectations

This is big considering in most cases I haven’t even made my expectations clear.

And yet, if the customer service person puts themselves in MY shoes what would exceed their expectations?

Sometimes it may be necessary to ask what it is that I want in order to then exceed my expectations

Giving me what I want (even though I may not tell you what that is)

I won’t have told you that I want exceptional customer service, and yet if you give me that, you are going to get my praise.

This can be the hardest thing to achieve in a lot of situations and yet it is the one thing that makes the difference between good and outstanding customer service.

Timeliness

This of course is not always relevant.

But, when you go off to do something for me be timely about it.

When you deliver exceptional customer service you always keep me updated on what is going on.

You are mindful that I, as a customer, are here.  Forget about me at your own peril.

Friendliness (in a genuine way)

I love it when I am greeted like a long lost friend by a customer service agent.

This makes me feel as though you want me in your establishment.

Notice ME

I think this is the one point that often tips customer service for me.

When I walk into your establishment, as a customer, I want someone to notice that I am there wanting to be served.

I am loving the amount of times this has been happening lately, and it helps me consider more and more exceptional service.

How do the places you do business rate?

Of these nine points how many of them do customer service agents, or the organization as a whole fulfill?

Do you agree that these are the things that create exceptional customer service for you?

Why it’s important to unlock the emotional side of change

We are all humans and so to unlock the emotional side of change allows individuals to move through change in a faster and more productive manner.

Did you know that hiding your emotions during times of change isn’t optional?

William Bridges through working with many organisations where change initiatives had failed undertook research into why this was the case.  Bridges found that most businesses dealt with the process, and forgot about the human aspect of it, namely employees emotions.

Managing Transitions

Bridges described this process of managing the emotional side of a change as ‘transition.’

As William Bridges said in  his 2009, 3rd edition of ‘Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change’ [p. 3]

Even though you probably won’t find it in the change document, transition isn’t some optional “if-you-get-around-to-it” add-on to the change; it’s not icing on the cake that can be forgotten until things ease up and you’ve finished with the important stuff.  Getting people through the transition is essential if the change is actually to work as planned.

Transition does appear to be ‘optional’ in the minds of Senior Executives in today’s organisations.  Many change management plans are focused on the physical change that is occurring, for example:

  • that date in time when the structure of the organisation is going to change completely,
  • when the new system is going live, and it will change your day job,
  • changes in the operating model of the organisation.

The Standard Change Management Approach

Working as a ‘Change Manager’, the title that is used in the recruitment world today, your main focus, just like that of a Project Manager, is to help the business deliver the expected and known business change with as little disruption as possible.

The Change Impact Assessment talks about how this change (that moment in time event) is going to impact all of the stakeholders in and outside of the organisation.

The Communication Plan is seen as very necessary to communicate how the change will impact the business – we’re doing this, so this will change on this date, for example.  And the training is planned so that people can understand how the new system or process works.

This management of change is all well and good as it does help people to understand one aspect of the change, but as Bridges so rightly points out, it’s the transition that is the most important.

Why is the emotional side of change important?

You as a human being have feelings.  During any change, you will react, and with this reaction will come a range of emotions. You’re not immune to it, no matter how much you like to shut down what you’re feeling. It’s normal when things move from being what you know, to different.

Your ‘transition’ will occur, with or without a change management plan. You will feel a sense of loss in some way or other.  People will feel as if for some time they are in a no man’s land of the old not being what it was and the new still not fully understood and visible.  This feeling might be for a short time or a long time.   I heard a recent example of this ‘Neutral Zone’ phase taking someone five years to travel through successfully.  And then there’s the acceptance and welcoming of the new beginning that will occur.

How this all plays out in your organisation

In organisations that are changing due to restructures or re-organisations your staff will experience similar experiences to that posed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her ‘Grief Curve’.  William Bridges himself explains that the feelings associated with transition are not too dissimilar to feelings of grief and loss.  It makes sense because that is exactly what is occurring.  Loss of a way of being, thinking, or doing for each staff member, whether impacted in a large or small way.  The grief is the emotional reaction to what is occurring and is a very normal experience.  One that should be accepted and acknowledged, rather than ignored.

Accepting and supporting staff through their transition journey, as part of the overall change process, is something that needs to be done, not ignored.

There are five signs that your change management initiatives have failed, and they are all related to the emotions that are visible in your workplace.  Are you seeing signs of strong emotions displayed in your workplace?  This may be a strong sign that your current change management approach isn’t working.

 

Practical tips for managing your team through change

Are you good at managing your team through change?

As a manager, busy in your role do you stop to consider how the changes that are occurring in your organisation, to your business unit, or team are impacting on each member?

My guess is that while you do consider it, you may not fully understand what is happening emotionally for your team members.  And no one can expect you to, as they are not your emotions. Yes, there’s that word.  The one that isn’t supposed to be spoken about in organisations – ‘Emotions’.

It seems that there is fear in the workplace suggesting that ‘we mustn’t talk about feelings because that sort of thing doesn’t belong in the workplace.’  In doing this though we totally negate the fact that each and everyone one of us in a work environment is an individual emotive being.

Allow a place for emotion in the workplace.

Daniel Shapiro explains that “Emotions do not just ‘appear‘.  Many of the ones that arise in your everyday communications and conflicts stem from five predictable core concerns:

appreciation (recognition of value),
affiliation (emotional connection to others),
autonomy (freedom to feel, think, or decide),
status (standing compared to others),
and role (job label and related activities).”

During times of change and the associated transition that people go through, they may feel loss related to each of these, especially if the organisation is changing in a significant way, like restructuring, for example.

The change need not only be related to reduction either but can be just as relevant in the context of growth phases.

Any large scale change that impacts on an individual will see them experience emotions as part of their transition journey.

Accept and acknowledge your emotional state during this time.

Accept and recognize that each person will experience some emotion.  It will not only help you, but it will also help your staff travel their transition journey a lot more smoothly.

Acknowledging your emotions doesn’t mean that you need to sit and cry in front of your team members if you are sad about the change that is taking place.  It does mean opening up and sharing that you are feeling sad about the change, though.  Your team members are more likely to share their feelings with you if you talk about your emotional response.

It is not a sign of weakness to share how you feel.  What it does do is show your human side and connects with your staff.

Be open to listening to your employees when they share how they are feeling

One thing that you can do that will assist your employees greatly is to hear them expressing how they are feeling.  There is no need to pass any comment or judgement, especially if you have also shared how you are feeling.

If you understand the transition process, you may like to explain to the staff that their emotional reactions are a natural part of their development journey. What they are feeling is normal, and it will pass if they can acknowledge their perceived loss.

The other side of managing change

When managing change, what is the other side?

I often hear the word ‘change’ used to describe many things that happen in an organisation.  For example an upgrade to a computer operating system, or a whole of organisation re-structure or merger.

The word change is also used to describe what is ‘changing.’ This could be an office relocation or process change. Most often with change there is an impact on the people.  Whilst change does impact people, there is something else at play that is not always addressed.

Management and staff may be aware of it, yet not sure how to describe it, or even what to describe.

What I am talking about is the ‘emotional journey’ that individuals are going through when the change occurs.

The standard change management approach and why it doesn’t work

The standard way of approaching change management is to deal with the process side of it, first and foremost.  Often communicating what is going to happen and how things are going to be changed is key.

Having spent many years working this way I watch it fail, time and time again.

It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.  They aren’t the same thing.

Change  is situational: the move to a new site, the retirement of the founder, the reorganisation of the roles on the team, the revisions to the pension plan.

Transition, on the other hand, is psychological; it is a three-phase process that people go through as they internalise and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.

William Bridges – Managing Transitions, 3rd ed.

William Bridges came to realise that when standard change management practices failed, there was something else at play.

What he noticed was when change occurred what was not being addressed was the emotional aspect.

He set out to understand what was occurring and from that developed his ‘transition model.’

The model is a way of providing knowledge of how to better support change.

Bridges Transition Model

The key aspect of Bridges transition model is being willing to acknowledge how you are feeling, and placing yourself in the model according to your own emotional journey.

This works best if Managers place themselves before openly discussing and determining where each individual in their team is currently sitting.

By doing this it supports individuals to acknowledge how they are feeling emotionally about the change. And then understanding what they can do to move through this journey in the most effective way.

A brief explanation of the three zones

The end zone is all about acknowledging what you feel you are losing and grieving that loss.

In the neutral zone, we feel confusion and uncertainty as things are no longer the way they were, nor yet in a new place that we feel comfortable with.

New beginnings occur when we meet our earlier emotions and feel excited about the opportunities of what is occurring.

Why acknowledging our emotional journey works

The key aspect of acknowledging the transition that staff are going through is that it supports a return to a productive state more quickly.

Without this acknowledgement, staff feel unsettled and uncertain in the midst of the change. This can occur when they are not comfortable expressing how they are feeling emotionally.  Emotions are a natural part of being human.  And yet, in the workplace setting, it is often frowned upon to speak about emotions.

Learning to support your staff members through their transition journey, will not only help you as a manager but the organisation as a whole.

If you would like to learn more about the transition model and how it might benefit you and your organisation, please contact me.

Why restructures in business fail

Failed restructures in business are common. Restructures are often initiated due to a change or changes in organisational strategic focus.

You no longer holding a strategic advantage in the marketplace.  What change will the Board or Senior Executives need to make to bring about change to this situation.  One of the first considerations is to restructure.

In this interesting article titled ‘Change for Change’s sake‘ the authors talk about the need for change:

“A company periodically needs to shake itself up, regardless of the competitive landscape.  Even if the external environment is not changing in ways that demand a response, the internal environment probably is.  The human dynamics within an organization are constantly shifting – and require the organization to change along with them.”

Over time informal networks mirror the formal structure, which is how silos develop.  Restructuring gets people to start forming new networks, making the organization as a whole more creative. It also disrupts all the routines in an organization that collectively stifle innovative and adaptability.  Finally, restructuring breaks up the outdated power structures that may be quietly misdirecting a company’s resource allocation.”

Are these reasons for the change valid?

The reasons listed may be good reasons for organisational change.  The expectations are that the disruption of a restructure will create a better, more cohesive and efficient workplace.  But will it?

Let’s look at the thinking behind these reasons:

A company needs to periodically shake itself up

Is this true?  Why does a company need to periodically shake itself up?  It would need to do that only if it thought it wasn’t operating the way that it should.  Lots of beliefs about how it should or shouldn’t be operating.  Are these really valuable?

The organisation needs to change as the human dynamics shift

Yes, the people in the organisation are the culture.  And it is true that cultures shift and change as the people within an organisation learn more, change based on comings and goings. All of these shifts happen for a reason and are beneficial to the organisation, if they are open to seeing them that way.

Is there therefore really a need to restructure in order to shift the organisation in a more profound way?  Creating more stress in an organisation than already exists is not the answer.

Restructuring gets people to start forming new networks

That’s one way of putting it. Restructuring forces new networks. That might not necessarily be for the betterment of the organisation. Where is the consideration given to the skills and expertise of those people operating in certain areas within the business?  That knowledge and skill base will be dissolved or lost completely to the organisation IF these new networks are seen to be what is required.  What is the cost to the organisation of that?

Disrupting the routines improves innovation and adaptability

This is not my experience.  My experience is that people become less adaptable as they begin to feel insecure.  In these circumstances they close down and protective.  That is what stifles innovation and adaptability.  The right environment for innovation is one of openness and trust.  More openness and trust are not gained by regular restructuring.

Outdated power structures are broken up

Power structures are all perceived by individuals within them. Only if you believe that someone has power do they have power.  We all have an equal amount of power when it all comes down to it. It is our ‘perception’ that we don’t that changes how we interact with others.  If there is a strong belief that power structures exist and need to be broken up, then they will form again.  It’s the thinking that needs changing, not the actual formal structure.

Failed restructures are disruptive

How many times have you heard of restructuring efforts not producing the expected savings or efficiency gains that were described as benefits of the change?  Countless times, if you are like me with a long work history.

And yet, we hear time and time again of organisations that choose to ‘restructure.’

They move boxes around on the organisational chart and expect it to fix problems.

What’s missing?

If you make the change for the reasons above, and manage the change in the best way possible,  why then do your change efforts not produce the outcome that you expected?

The missing piece is an understanding of the individual journey that people take when there is change thrust upon them.  During times of change we each travel an emotional journey.  This is not always recognized or understood.  In business it is not common to speak about emotions.

And yet, we as humans have feelings.  We get emotional.  We respond to situations emotionally. It is a normal part of who we are.

An individuals journey is just that, individual.  Staff won’t all go through it at the same pace.  They won’t go through it in a linear fashion (necessarily).  What do I mean by that?  People won’t all feel the same way at the same time.  Some will get in touch with their emotions quicker than others.

Struggling with the emotional journey is normal for some people. Feeling stuck is not uncommon during these times.

Learning to understand the emotional journey associated with change is a great way to support staff through a restructure.

William Bridges assisted many organisations who went through their restructure process and it failed to deliver, by assisting Managers to understand this change emotional journey.  In doing this Managers had a way of supporting staff that resonated with the staff.  They began to feel supported, rather than detached from the process.

When you support staff through their emotional journey they more quickly move back to their normal ways of operating.

Let’s talk about restructuring

Let’s talk about restructuring and how to manage the change.

Restructuring in most instances means some people stay and some people go.

Restructures mean a complete shuffling of the decks. With the rearranging of the management layer occurring first.  It’s a stressful time for Managers.

The expectations are that the operations will continue as normal, whilst uncertainty exists about who has roles and who doesn’t.

During this time employees often feel uncared for.

You begin to wonder if you will still have a job after all this.  You start to hear about colleagues who weren’t successful in gaining roles and life as it was begins to shift.

Here are some tips for managing these times:

Understand people will be emotional

Individuals lives are being turned upside down.  It is normal for them to get emotional about the change. People will have different emotions surface for them; shock, anger, hurt, denial at what is happening.  These emotions are all normal. Recognize that and let them be expressed.

Enjoy celebrating the way things have been

Life as it was is about to change.  As a group celebrate what has been.  Draw up a picture timeline of your journey as a Division/Business Unit/Team.  Have a party and talk about your journey.  Celebrate the people who have been a part of where you are today.

Let yourself experience your emotions

Don’t hide your own emotional feelings. Simply because you are a Manager doesn’t mean that you need to hide your own emotions.  You are human too.  It is perfectly normal for you to experience emotions.  Share how you’re feeling with your team.  It will create a bond and allow them to express their emotions.

Acknowledge your assumptions and notice them

Notice the assumptions that have surfaced for you around

  • why you think this restructure is occurring
  • what it means for you, and your team in the future
  • why things are being changed the way they are sighted to

Your assumptions will help you to understand what you’re thinking about this change. Questioning some of those thoughts will bring you to a calmer and less stressed place about the change.  It’s worth considering.

Be as present as you can be

Being present won’t feel easy when it seems that ground is shifting underneath your feet. If you focus on being present in each moment of the day.  Get up in the morning and focus on getting ready to go to work.  Go to work and be fully present with each and every individual you meet.  Be present in meetings, noticing the emotions.  When you go home, leave work and be fully present at home, with your partner or family.

Question any stressful thinking

Stress comes from thinking about the future and the past. Any thoughts or beliefs that surface can be questioned.  This will bring you into a different space, a more present space with reality.  Things will always seem worse when your mind runs away with what is occurring, or what you think is occurring.  Reality is always kinder.

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