You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Know is Broken

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I’m working with several new teams for a particular client. It’s always a bit of a sticky wicket when I show up for the first time. The other day I walked into the office of a department manager who’d been ducking me for weeks. Unanswered e-mails, unreturned voicemails and missed appointments. My team has been hired by the executive team to do a pilot assessment of his team’s service, and he wasn’t too happy about it. Many times a team and their managers are a little freaked when Mr. or Ms. Big tells them that someone is coming to listen in on their customer conversations.

  • “Oh, great! Big Brother is here!”
  • “What? Do you think we’re bad?”
  • “Someone’s just looking for the dirt to fire us!”
  • “What did I do wrong?”

I get it. It’s not always comfortable doing something new and a bit threatening when you’ve never done it before. And yet, I have almost twenty years doing this for many different companies and many different teams who started out as skeptics and are now long-term partners in better sales, service and even collections. it seems comfortable and easy rolling along without really knowing what’s happening in those moments of truth when your customers are talking to your company. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” they say. But we are all human beings working for human beings dealing with human beings in a system created and maintained by human beings. I therefore have come to trust more in Bob Dylan’s perspective: “Everything is Broken.”  My experience is that with any cusotmer service, sales, or collections team there are things which are broken in the system which could be easily remedied if they are simply identified. But first you have to identify what they are. If you’re not listening, then you might not know something is broken until it’s too late (and no one wants that to happen at any rung of the corporate ladder).

When our team does a first time pilot assessment with a team, we generally start by assessing the whole team. We listen from the customer’s perspective. We don’t care who is who. We don’t identify individual agents. Like the customer, when you call Acme Anvils you don’t care who answers the phone. You’re talking to Acme Anvils. By starting with a blind assessment of the team, we can quickly identify areas that the team needs to improve. There’s no finger pointing, no calling out, no working agreements, and no private converstions in the corner office. There’s just a common issue that the whole team needs to address.

I’m happy to say that the vast majority of our clients, from the front-line to the board room, eventually learn that our Service Quality Assessment benefits everyone from the customer to everyone in the organization who cares about the customer and wants to do a good job. But, I first have to prove it to them and earn their trust. And so, I begin my day.

  3 comments for “You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Know is Broken

  1. Enkata
    March 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    “If you’re not listening, then you might not know something is broken until it’s too late”

    Great point! You need to be proactive so you aren’t left scrambling at the end. Even the most advanced and intuitive systems can be undone by simple human error.

  2. mark
    June 5, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks for the great blog on working with new teamates and figuring out what is and what isn’t working.  I own a Seattle Washington Telemarketing company. I’m sure my employees and I will learn alot from what you’ve posted here.  Keep up the good work.

  3. November 1, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Well you do have to hyperactive if you are working with new team mates and figuring out what right and wrong. It’s like an unsolved puzzle unless you properly coordinate and record the efforts. Because its not the technology or environment, it is basically people managing tasks who earn success!
    A good informative post!

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