Inspect What You Expect

“Ya gotta INSPECT what you EXPECT!”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you merely check the stats or carefully read the reports.

Nor is it accomplished by only speaking with your Quality Control people or reviewing their findings.

It does mean that YOU personally roll up your sleeves & dig in.

(BTW, most of the stuff I’ve written here is not intended for the CEO or the Senior Executive (Exalted?) VP types who have way too broad responsibilities to regularly get down in the muck with the rest of us.

Doesn’t mean that they should never…just that they don’t have the time, capacity nor willingness (?) to do so consistently.

Or would even know what they’re looking at or hearing!)

Note: I remember when the Senior Directors started listening to a call or two during their meetings…apparently, it was the “fad” to get close to what’s going on.

But I’m sure that most (I’m being kind here) of them knew nothing about how well or poorly the call actually went.

If there was no yelling & screaming and the rep sounded courteous & professional, then they probably nodded their head & thought,”Great call!”

It could be that the rep referred the caller to their home branch, the customer readily accepted that & the call ended nicely.

Everything went well, right?

If I were there (or you were), we may very well have been pulling out our hair as the request could have been addressed by the rep…or handled on-line…or perhaps it could’ve been executed at any branch (& not necessarily just the home branch).

¡No, señor!)

[Note: In another story, I talk about the time we held a group monitoring session in the USCC Board Room…with about 40 or so people in attendance (Sr Directors, Directors, Division Leaders, Team Leaders, QC specialists).

And me.

We all listen to the same call…live.

Then we go around the room so everyone can give their impression of the call.

“Good call!”

“Very good!”

“What about you, Mike?”

“Uh, I’ll just wait ’til everyone’s finished…then I’ll go!”

Everyone “rated” the call as “good” or “very good”.

Me: “That was one of the worst calls I’ve ever heard!

“Did anyone in this room actually hear the customer almost cry at the end? Besides all the errors the rep made & the several opportunities she missed to fix this entire issue, how could you ever say that it was a good call???

“My God  the customer was so upset & yet was instructed to wait until her husband came home from work that night to discuss the situation with him!!!

“I don’t care what anyone thinks or says or even believes that the proper procedures were used…and they weren’t, by the way!…it cannot be a good call if the customer is not smiling at the end!


Then I reviewed the call, point by excruciating point.

“But, Mike, you…”

“But what?!? This is what ALL reps should do! Use your head…THE CUSTOMER WAS ALMOST CRYING but no one cared! Not the rep. Not you.”]

*takes a deep breath*

But for all others, you need to do the inspection yourself – – IN ADDITION TO having all the appropriate quality-tracking & measurement mechanisms & QC specialists in place.

MBWA/Management By Walking Around.

What are you seeing, hearing, feeling? Don’t be afraid to sit down with someone & have them walk you through exactly what they’re doing & why they’re doing it. What are they looking for? What are some obvious indicators? Do they use job aids? Should they?

(Oh, yeah, it would help immensely if you actually knew what they were doing…as well as how they should be doing it!

I’m always worried about those driving instructors…who aren’t good drivers themselves! Before you know it, we’ll be heading smack into the nearest tree!)

Do you look at the completed pieces of work? Inspect the result produced & compare that to the original request? Listen to the recorded call & actually look at the customer’s account?

Do you actually read the verbatim on customer responses to satisfaction surveys or just scan the top-level numbers? Those comments will really tell you how the customer felt about the interaction & will provide insights that an answer to a multiple-choice question can’t.

If someone bothers to add a comment, it’s usually because of a very good experience…or a very bad one.

Are you ever the customer yourself?

ALL your employees (if possible/practical/feasible) should be customers themselves. You will never, ever learn everything about a product, service or company until you yourself experience it first-hand.

I learned SO MUCH from being a Citibank customer myself.

I learned that often times, you don’t see the “other half” of a transaction if the “first part” occurred on the last day of the statement (stop payments, bounced checks, overdraft charges, etc.), though things might’ve changed in the past dozen or so years.

I learned about nicknaming my payees on Bill Payment On-Line or “naming my accts”, e.g., My IMMA, Heather’s IMMA, etc. on Citibanking On-Line.

I knew exactly how the ATMs operated, how IVR/Interactive Voice Response worked & how poorly written some of our customer letters were.

(Yes, I initiated changes…or made the changes myself…to improve hundredSSS of different letters. In many, we weren’t even providing a phone number or address for the customer to use if they have a question or issue!!!!)

I absolutely hated it (everywhere I worked) when we didn’t provide the Customer Service phone # and website address on payment coupons to proactively discourage customers from sending in checks!

I would read every statement message & insert. I also tried to have all employee accounts rule off on the first possible statement date so they could experience this stuff first-hand before most other customers did.

(Yes, I would get my hands on the messages & inserts from Marketing beforehand, but that stuff would be communicated to the people along with LOTS of other stuff!

When you got your statement at home, you often have more time & a more relaxed (hopefully!) environment in which to absorb what you’re reading!)

Years ago, when I was just getting my feet wet in Customer Service with Citi, there was this philosophical debate going on in the NY marketplace…

Is it better to have veteran Citibankers running Customer Service (and then teach them about the “science of managing a call center”) – – OR – – is it better to hire “experienced call center professionals” (and then teach them about Citibank)?

I always believed in the former.

Always felt that there were training courses, seminars & books available that I could use to rapidly increase my working knowledge of exactly how call centers operated, the queuing theories & philosophies behind them & what it took to lead a successful customer service business.

And I quickly took advantage of all those resources to increase my expertise.

But how long does it take to master a company’s products & services & policies & procedures, especially one as varied & complex as Citi?

I’ve come across a TON of fairly-important individuals in my career that didn’t know a damned thing about the business itself.

No, not necessarily about the “business of managing a business” (your budget & financials…meetings…tracking business results…presentations…vanilla coaching sessions) which many people think is what leaders do.

(That’s what managers do, not leaders.)

Managers track & report on where the ship is heading & everything that happened along the way.

True leaders, great leaders, determine the proper course to take, ensure that the crew is well-prepared for the journey & then they help lead & steer the ship!

When you speak with customers, they rarely remember what their average wait time was. They do, however, clearly recall whether their problem was resolved, whether they hung up the phone completely satisfied & SMILING, and how they felt about the overall experience & their impression of the company as a whole.

You really should have someone who can relate to the customers, to the employees & to the company.

If the organization doesn’t have the necessary expertise in a particular field, go develop it quickly (education & training), bring on some consultants or hire a specialist.

But often times, the very best leaders are already experts in their field or, at a minimum, in that industry so they have a very solid foundation upon which to build.

Don’t manage from your office or your PC. Ain’t nothing important happening there! And most of it is reactive in nature.

Lead by example.

Lead alongside your people (literally & figuratively).

Encourage & inspire your people to move forward with you, instead of having to push or drag them along.

Leading people is one of the most rewarding & fulfilling experiences you’ll ever have in your life.

Have fun at it. Succeeding is fun. Seeing your people succeed is even more fun!


As always, thank you so much for listening!

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