Archive for January, 2012

Empowerment (A Lesson in Customer Service)

I took a really short business trip recently –fly in one day, meetings the second day, and back out again on the morning of the third day.

My flights were perfect — no turbulence, on time — and I arrived at my destination energized and ready to work. Sadly, the airline had other plans for my luggage — it was “delayed”. Some dozen phone calls later, each with a different (and sometimes conflicting) response about where my luggage was, and an unexpected trip to the shopping mall to secure some clothes to wear for my meetings, my luggage turned up. By that time it was late afternoon on my meeting day, and of no use. I didn’t even open it…I simply turned right around and headed to the airport for my return flight.

Right around the time my luggage did arrive, the airline sent me a notice that my flight had been canceled, and I needed to rebook. So my connecting flight turned into two connections. Then when I got to the airport there was a separate delay in my departing flight, and I was going to have to rebook, again. This time my arrival home would be delayed by 10 hours. Uugh. And then, just when I couldn’t take anything more, the question came: “And how would you like to pay for your bag?”

My bag? The one that you lost, and I called a dozen times about, and that you only returned to me a few hours before I had to leave today? If it had been “delayed” any longer, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, I said. I’m not paying for that! You need to waive the luggage fee.

“I would if I could,” replied the ticket agent.

Really?!? In a giant, multi-billion dollar corporation, the front line customer service staff are not empowered to make a $25 decision to preserve customer satisfaction? Unbelievable.

Of course, the airlines aren’t exactly known for their exceptional customer service. But, sadly, some of our IT departments aren’t, either.

If your front line staff are saying “I would if I could” to customers, ask yourself why. Most people want to help (thus, the saying). *You* need to break down barriers to doing so, and reward proactive decision-making in support of customer satisfaction. In other words, empower them.

More “I can and I will” just may be the result — and how great would that be?

First 2012 Action — Fire Yourself?

Over the holidays I had a chance to catch up on some reading (thanks not only to a week off of work, but sadly, to a terrible winter cold) on everything from important leadership skills, the changing role of the CIO, and effective metrics; to considerations for cloud computing, virtualization, and bring-your-own-device (BYOD). Expect more on many of these topics, soon. 🙂

Among my reading, one article that really stood out was “Fire yourself this Christmas” by Joel Dobbs. Dobbs takes the idea of year-end reflection to a new level — by firing yourself (and then hiring *you* as your replacement), you have the unique opportunity to see your organization as you once did…from a fresh perspective.

Every organization has an institutional “way”, a history of decisions and their rationale, and established relationships and politics. And it’s immensely helpful to know, understand, and be able to work within these. But there’s nothing quite like your first few months at a new institution, when you have an “outsider’s” perspective, and, as Dobbs suggests:

No ownership of previous failures, no credit for prior successes, no investment in prior decisions- just a mandate to set things right.

As we enter 2012—and soon, the 12-13 budget planning season—recapturing that “newly hired” perspective might just change how we establish priorities, focus our initiatives, and identify new opportunities for improvement and growth. Oh yeah — it might also serve to remind us about what we’ve done right thus far. Dobbs doesn’t focus on this as much, but I believe there’s value in recognizing your strengths, too.

So here’s to an early 2012 “firing”…and developing a fresh perspective for the rest of the New Year.


@rclemmons on Twitter

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