Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Creating a Culture of Service 4 – A Manager

A huge segment of the population on campus that has a great deal to do with controlling the culture is the management group. Not senior executives but directors and such. These are the people who control the various functional offices that students encounter. Like the bursars, registrars and director of this or another office. They influence a major segment of the customer service culture since they set the tone for how people in their office should work how they interact with students and how they relate with their employees which is in reality a major factor influencing behavior.

We learn how we are expected to act towards other by how we are acted upon especially by our bosses. If our boss treats us and others coldly we are being taught that it is alright to be curt with those we work and interact with. Here’s an example.

There was an office in a university that was well known for being very rude to students all the time. Students dreaded to go there because everyone treated them as if they were an impediment to the work in the office when the real work was the students.  The employees were treated poorly, given little respect and were told that office work came before students. Besides, most of the student forms and work had been transferred to student operated kiosks supposedly to give students more control and options. But it was really to get the students out of the office. In fact when the office was mystery shopped during a customer service audit the receptionist actually told the shopper that she would like to help but was not permitted to do so. There was an electronic kiosk set up for these sorts of interactions and the shopper should use that.

Then the director of the office retired. Another one was hired and within a few months the office was known as a place in which students were welcomed made to feel important and they got their work accomplished with friendly people

Turns out that the first director was a very officious, rude person who treated her workers as if they were an impediment to her getting her own work done. As if they were students whom she did not like. She never thought of their needs; their lives; or the simple fact that they had lives outside and inside the office. They were just workers to her and that was reflected in the way they worked. They saw there were no rewards in being nice or helpful and in fact doing so could lead to sanctions so they did not go out of their way to try to be helpful or nice.

The new director came into the office and spent the best part of the first month getting to know her colleagues. Yes, colleagues. She saw everyone in the office as having value and an integrity that needed to be recognized and encouraged. She spent time simply talking with her employees and getting to know them. She encouraged them to take care of their personal business before coming to work but knew that this could not always be done so she was lenient in allowing employees to take care of business even if it delayed office business when possible. She did not bend over backwards but here is an example.

One of the workers had a young son at home who was quite ill with the flu. She told the employee that she should feel free to take an extra half-an-hour for lunch so she could go home and check in on then boy who was under someone else’s’ care at home. The employee left for work early but also came back early. She did not take the extra tie but felt important to have been offered it. She did not stay late that day since she wanted to get home to her child but when her son felt better she often worked late and harder. Why? Because her boss had shown that she cared and that she was important enough to receive some great employee customer service.

This office turned around under the new director’s direction. It became a place that students knew they would be treated well. She knew that if her people were going to provide great customer service it has to begin with her. She knew that offering to get someone who is busy a cup of coffee just embeds a sense that the needs of others exceed their own at times. This is a fine example of integrating good academic customer care into a system by a manager.

So what is the lesson here? Get to know and treat employees as if they are the customers that they are too. Managers should give them the correct attention and customer service  they need. Sometimes we forget that the people we manage are customers too and how we treat them will reflect on how they treat others.

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