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Leader vs. Loser

Customers talking to a Relationship Manager du...
Image by GoldMoneyNews via Flickr
One day, two employees, different companies, both branded. Both in front-line customer service jobs that don't pay a heck of a lot. Each in a role that could turn out a job or a career.

The behavior each person exhibits - not their personalities, background, friends or anything else - is what guarantees them totally different destinies.
  • One starts a dispute with a repeat customer over the cost of a paper cup (!) and proceeds to goad them, even though they don't take the bait, till she finally calls them a nasty name. She insists on a petty policy that doesn't make sense in the particular situation as if she had no control over it, resulting in the entire order being returned - that's six times as much money - and a turned-off customer who no longer wants to patronize the establishment. Her manner is rude, insulting, bitter - she chooses to feed her own dis-empowerment and misery to everyone. Her job will always be a job; wherever she is, it will be nowhere, for her and for whoever has to deal with her.
  • The other responds to an unusual request for food to be packaged and provided for takeout, even though it's a sit-down establishment; helps the customer make two trips to get it; and remembers them on a return trip, out of hundreds of guests served every day. This person is take-charge, active, proactive, and confident - conveys a sense of control, welcoming, and happiness to the customer. Her horizon is infinite. And though she does not have a lot of money now, one day she will be a senior leader, company owner, CEO.
I was the customer who interacted with both of them personally. Felt angry at and bad for the first and applauded the second - told management at the company what a wonderful asset to them she was. Walked away smiling. Wanted to be a customer of this company again, because of how they treat their people, because of how their people treat me.

Leaders may have different styles but one thing about them is always the same: They act as if they own the situation, whether they actually do nor not. This leads them to the following behaviors, which in turn lead to change on the ground:
  • Listen to the customer intently to understand what is wrong, from their perspective (not for charity - it's about enhancing the customer experience for the lowest cost and greatest future profit)
  • Do something immediately to fix the problem, an ownership behavior - customers want to deal with the person in charge
  • Focus on the customer's biggest pain point rather than all aspects of the problem - they're not there to fix your life, but rather to keep you as a customer for life
  • Go outside their scope of responsibility to keep a customer - at times respond to issues that they are not responsible for
  • Speak to customers respectfully and as a valued "member of the family," even if they will never see them again
It's 2012. Your future is on the line. There are people coming out to challenge you every single day, from every corner of the globe. They are poor, they are hungry, they have seen what Hollywood depicts as success, and they are going to learn everything they have to in order to take care of themselves and their families.

What about you? Are you going to wait around this year? Hope that somebody sees your potential and gives you a shot? Or are you going to take responsibility for your fate - make it better - become an owner in your mind, someone customers want to deal with again and again?

It's up to you - that's a choice that only you can make. But the longer you wait to make it, the more negative and disempowered you act, the less likely it is that you will have the kind of life you want this year. Conversely, the more you take charge of your life, and the more you do to make others happy, the more happy and empowered you yourself will be.

Think about it - have a good day everyone - and good luck!
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