Decision-Making & Problems

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

There are just so many to make every single day…what’s a leader to do?

Most of them do not require extensive research. They do require self-awareness & a great deal of self-control so as not to over-analyze.

Analysis paralysis.

And it requires that you have confidence.

Confidence in your abilities & knowledge of the situation to arrive at the right decision quickly.

Confidence in your people to delegate responsibility to them. Or, even better, for them to start assuming more responsibility on their own.

One of my biggest weaknesses as a leader…as well as one of my greatest strengths…was not knowing where my boundaries lied.

Do I focus more on my specific realm of responsibility, or do I realize, and gladly accept, my position as one of the leaders of the larger organization?

Do I mind my own business, or is everything that I touch, see, feel, hear, smell & taste part of my overall responsibility as a corporate citizen?

During my last few years at Citi, I had this “large cubicle/office”…just like an office, except that it didn’t have floor-to-ceiling walls (which I requested on way too many occasions). After all, I was on tons of conference calls, didn’t like wearing a headset, often spoke loudly as that’s just the way I was & found it difficult at times to fully concentrate with all the outside noise/disruptions.

(I never did get the hang of that white noise thingie.)

But it did afford me one opportunity, especially during the evening hours after all my neighbors were long gone & the “buzz” of a busy office environment was pretty much subdued…

…and that was with the CitiGold Service Center where some evening shift reps sat, right on the other side of my back wall.

I would often hear their conversations pretty clearly (at least, their half of the conversation).

There were many a time when I would stop whatever I was doing & jump out of my office, asking the rep to please place the customer on hold.

I would introduce myself, let them know about the PROPER way to handle that customer’s particular situation/issue (often times, I was the one who actually developed & documented that exact process/procedure) & make sure that everything was OK.

In the beginning, I’d get these strange looks. I’d usually resort to my “I’m good buddies with your Director, Gene Weaver” line & if necessary, hand them my business card.

“If you or your supervisor have any questions whatsoever, pls feel free to come & see me whenever you like. I sit right over there!”

Some people may view that as pushy.

If so, then a helluva lot more people need to be pushy.

I’m just not gonna sit idly by if I see that a customer…any customer…is not receiving the absolutely best service possible.

Of course, I would do that with my own people as well…and it was always in the spirit of helping (both the customer as well as the employee) & trying to improve the service experience for the next customer.

That’s the same message I always tried to drive home to any call monitoring group or quality control unit with whom I came into contact.

Yes, you’re looking at something that already happened. (Yes, in some cases, you’re able to prevent something that’s “not perfect” from touching the customer.)

And you’re “grading, evaluating” something that already occurred. You’re giving someone or some organization a “mark”.

But your PRIMARY & MOST IMPORTANT function is to ensure that every customer interaction, after the one you just checked, is better than the one before. That any errors or weaknesses you detected don’t ever occur again…by anyone.

While you’re examining stuff that already happened, your mission is really to help shape the future.

What can we learn from the past that will help us going forward?

I once asked the Director of a Service Quality team (call monitors) what she believed was her team’s mission.

She replied, “To make sure we follow what Legal & Compliance says!”

I nearly crapped my pants.

“Are you kidding me?!? You think you’re here to serve Legal & Compliance? Really?

“And you wonder why ‘no one likes my people’? Seriously?”

I told her exactly why no one liked her people.

They always made it “us vs. them”. They were so eager to pinpoint out the stupidest little omissions that didn’t affect the overall quality of the call…nor the customer’s satisfaction of it…in the least. Before they even started listening, they were already on high alert for certain errors, almost salivating as the call transpired.

Everything was a “Gotcha!”. I previously told you guys about the time we did a call calibration session where everyone listened to, and graded, the same exact call.

My rep did an INCREDIBLE job, taking a yelling-and-screaming mortgage customer whose monthly payment suddenly increased by $600 (due to the expiration of her 5-year Texas property tax abatement) & clearly explained what happened & why, and did it so well that the customer was unbelievably thankful & singing the rep’s praises by the end of the call.

Every last person (me, one of my managers & the entire Svce Quality team) agreed that it was one of the very best calls we ever heard!

Better than sliced bread!

But EVERY call monitor deducted 3 pts for “not using the standard closing” & another 3 pts for “talking over the customer” (it happened once in a 8-minute phone call, after a short period of silence, when both the rep & the customer started talking at the same time).

100 – 3 – 3 = 94

Any call below 95 was considered a failed call.

When I told them that I was gonna go out there & yell at the rep for “failing a call”, they were horrified!

“You can’t do that!” “Have you lost your mind, Mike!” “Didn’t you hear how much everyone loved the call?”

“But”, I replied, “you failed the call. That’s all the rep is gonna remember after they read your monitor review. I bet none of you would ever write ‘greatest call in mortgage servicing history’ on her form, right?”

I tried so hard to get them to understand that their loyalty & allegiance should NOT be with Legal nor Compliance.

Nor should it be with their Director.

Nor with me (duh!), my managers or their reps.

It SHOULD BE with the customers!

Their job is to get the customers to smile st the end of every phone call. Now, they’re not talking with the customers themselves & besides, the calls themselves have already taken place, whether they monitor “live calls” or ones from our call library.

Their job is to improve the rep’s performance on their NEXT call…and the call after that & on & on.

By providing useful & constructive feedback on what already occurred, they’re aiming to plant the necessary seeds to provide exemplary quality service going forward.

To make sure that the customer smiles on the next call they monitor.

The only time I really care about the past is when I consider the role it pays in shaping our future.

(As you have clearly noticed, I have yet to conquer this “going off on a tangent” affliction that has besieged me my entire life.


Try not to immediately “blame” your people when what they have done or said results in a poor, or even, disastrous, outcome.

Find out what decision-making process they used.

Did they properly assess the situation, taking all pertinent information into consideration? Did they use their tools properly? If they were unsure, did they ask for help?

What went through their head before those words came out of their mouth or whatever action they took.

Not very different than when teachers in school wanted to see your work on problem-solving questions…Did you take the right approach? Were you thinking it through completely & properly? Did you follow the “correct process”, but make a simple calculation error?

As far as learning goes, the process is often more important than the result. In the real world, however, with the end user, it’s the result that counts.

If the food I’m served stinks, that’s all that matters. To me

But to know why it sucked is the head chef’s responsibility & his responsibility to ensure it doesn’t recur.

OK, that should be enough upon which to ponder & see where this fits into your everyday responsibilities.

And, as always, thank you so much for listening!

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