One of the best (?) things about growing old is that you forget so many things that occurred earlier during your lifetime.


Not that the forgetfulness is a wonderful thing necessarily, but it does allow for those “Wow, I forgot all about that happening!” moments…and then you get to relive & enjoy those past experiences all over again.

And often times, it helps reveal how people really felt about you!

Yeah, I know…the ol’ doubled-edged sword thingie.

Anyway, about a year ago, I commented on a Facebook post by one of the managers who worked for me for a couple of years at Citi in San Antonio…Renee DeLeon Sanchez.

She was (and still is) such a good-hearted, warm person who really does an excellent job.

She & Maggie Castillo Ivins each led half of the senior reps in the USCC’s Sitewide Monitoring Unit.

The group was responsible for silently monitoring incoming calls handled by every CitiPhone & Direct Bank (our remote acct-opening function) service rep, with a minimum of 5 monitored calls/rep/month.

They would “rate/score the call” using a recently-developed methodology that mirrored the system used to rate & rank our employees on an annual basis.

Historically, call monitoring was based on a 1-100 point scale, with different points allocated to various components of the call, e.g., opening, closing, product/service knowledge, satisfying the customer’s needs, etc..

But it was quite misleading at times.

For example, a very simple inquiry that was handled “without an error” could easily receive a score of 100.

100 meant “no identified errors”. But it was unable to address situations where the rep provided “Above & Beyond” service to the customer (like helping to prevent future problems or recommending more convenient self-service alternatives).

“100” simply meant “no mistakes”. It also didn’t take into consideration the customer’s reaction to the service experience.

Conversely, the rep could receive a very complicated call from a very irate customer & really do an excellent job, but due to the “strict, points-based” system in place, could easily receive a 90 score due to some very minor, procedural errors. Often, these types of mistakes or omissions really didn’t impact the call negatively or deteriorate the customer’s overall satisfaction with the service delivery.

Yet, the 100 score on a basic, quick call was still 10 points harder than the well-earned 90 on a truly-difficult interaction with the customer.

I know that the customer wouldn’t give a damn, nor even remember the specifics, about the “quick-n-easy” account balance inquiry.

Yet, the 90-scored call (with minor inconsequential errors & procedural differences) would have a profound impact on the caller’s satisfaction level & truly help shape how they feel about the company!

The points-based system was truly incapable of interpreting the call “as a whole”.

Was the customer really satisfied & expressed same?

Were all the customer’s needs identified & met, if not, surpassed?

Was it a “Wow!” call?

How “important” was the matter at hand TO THE CUSTOMER?

Had they just encountered a problem & were calling for assistance?

How did the customer feel about the service he/she just received?

So we developed a new scoring methodology that, as previously mentioned, mirrored the philosophy of how we rated & ranked our people at mid-year & year-end performance appraisals.

There were 5 performance categories: “Exceptional”, “Outstanding”, “Par” (or “Good” or “Meets Expectations”), “Needs Improvement” & “Unacceptable”.

And instead of looking for “mistakes & errors”, you know, being on high alert for opportunities to deduct points…the “I gotcha!” moments, we instead concentrated on what the rep said & did…the accuracy of the information provided…what options were offered to prevent future problem occurrence or improve the customer’s next interaction with Citi/Customer Service/whatever…how we perceived the customers satisfaction with the call…the difficulty & complexity of the call itself (including handling a very irate customer)…following standard operating procedures & all appropriate Regulations, etc..

It was a more “holistic approach” to rating the call.

While we naturally noted any errors made (misinformation, omissions, etc.), we also looked for “positive behavior”, including situations where the rep truly “added value” (that wasn’t specifically requested) or noticeably surpassed the customer’s expectations.

We took into consideration how “difficult” it (the call, the situation, the complexity of the situation) was to handle.

Doing a very good job on an ordinary, routine request…

…and doing a very good job on a complicated situation situation, often times, the customer’s second request on the same exact matter/problem, are really two vastly-different situations.

Night & day.

Previously, the first call would receive a 100 score. No errors made.

But now, it would probably “only” receive a Par/Meets Expectations rating.

Handled the inquiry…added no/little incremental value (like properly probing the customer for an underlying issue or the customer’s “true need”)…presented no alternative self-service options…didn’t attempt to deepen the customer’s relationship with Citi (which could provide improved pricing, reduced monthly fees, error prevention & access to other service offerings/programs, etc..

A “Par” call.

A “3”.

It started off as “Par” & the rep really did nothing to significantly impact it one way or the other.

But the very difficult call…trying to explain/resolve a customer-perceived problem…working on a customer’s second request for the same thing…handling the angry caller…could very well START OUT AS AN “OUTSTANDING” CALL, with the rep then moving the needle positively or negatively from there.

Do a very good job on a very difficult call could very well result in an Outstanding-rated call. A “4”

If the rep further provided value & the customer was extremely pleased with the result, it could easily be an Exceptional “5” call.

Even if the rep made a few errors (that didn’t drastically affect the outcome of the call), it could be reduced to “Par”…the same grade that a well-handled “easy call” would receive. Or even stay at “Outstanding” if the positive attributes greatly outweighed any negative ones.

We actually awarded ribbons for every Outstanding call (rated 4 or higher on the 5-point scale) the rep handled.

Note: Each rating category started off at a specific #…Exceptional at 5…Outstanding at 4…Par at 3…Needs Improvement at 2…Unsatisfactory at 1.

Errors made (of commission & omission) would move the score down by at least .1 – – depending on the nature & severity of the error.

Totally denying service or doing something that violated a Federal regulation would bring the call down to 1 automatically (“Unsatisfactory”).

Doing something positive to add incremental value could increase the score by a minimum of .1 – – again, depending upon how much true value was added & how it was accepted by the customer.

“Unsatisfactory” calls received either an “automatic 1” for a “fatal error” or any score below 1.5

“Needs Improvement” ranged from 1.5 to any score <2.5.

“Par” ranged from 2.5 to any score ><3.5.

Outstanding” ranged from 3.5 to any score <4.5.

And “Exceptional” ranged from 4.5 to 5.

As I said, “Outstanding” calls were awarded a ribbon…a red ribbon.

“Exceptional” calls would receive a blue ribbon.

Reps always proudly displayed the ribbons they earned.

If you wanted to know where the “great reps were”, just be on the lookout for the ribbons, especially the blue ones!

And “Exceptional” calls were so good that you could take any “Exceptional-rated” recorded call, and WITHOUT EVEN LISTENING TO IT YOURSELF, play it to a new hire training class & without any hesitation, confidently say, “You guys should strive to provide the level of quality service that this rep did right here!”

Without listening to it first, I repeat.

Or provide the President or CEO of your company with the recorded call & proudly say, “Here, listen to one of my people” and be 1000% sure that he’ll be pleased.

I’m not sure that most companies who still use the 1-100 rating scale, with the old “We gotcha!” mentality, could take a 100-rated call as a shining example of the type of work provided by your people for which you are most proud.

“But it’s a simple ‘What’s my balance?’ inquiry. That’s what you consider a ‘perfect’ call???”

100 means no identified errors. It doesn’t necessarily mean the best possible call for the customer.

And with a 1-100 scoring method, it always appears that you’re “taking points off”.

Perception” = “reality”.

Comes off as “very negative” & “extremely punitive” to the reps.

(And, yes, I fully understand how “positive” & “above & beyond” rep behaviors & actions are “already built into” dome of today’s monitoring forms. But I’ve seen these forms myself & they resemble a book more than they do a form!)

And our improved call rating system is not viewed as “punitive” a method as the “1-100” system.

It’s not just “picking on the rep” for even the tiniest, insignificant, procedural error.

It’s based on “what the rep could & should have done to add incremental value to the customer”!

What positive actions could have taken place to make the calls “more valuable”…in the customer’s eyes!

It recognizes, and rewards, a customer’s satisfaction & appreciation for receiving excellent service!

Call reviews are written, and should be viewed, more as a future action plan for the rep, and not merely a summary of what already happened.

The monitored call write-up should not just record history, but clearly show the rep what opportunities existed to improve that call & what behaviors can & should be practiced on future calls!


“But, Mike, what the heck does all this hafta do with Renee DeLeon Sanchez???”

*finally remembers where he is*


*scrolls up…reads…”Oh, yeah!”*

Well, Renee was one of my managers in Sitewide Monitoring…and a really wonderful human being.

So I happened to comment on a Facebook post of hers…can’t specifically recall what the topic may have been.

Anyway (Pls note: It’s “anyway” or “any way”, NOT “anyways”!), she somehow replied about how much she misses me.

That made me feel pretty good. I always hope to leave a good impression on those people with whom I worked & interacted.

And then she says, “I’ll never forget you for the $500 thing & the garbage pails!”

Although I was pleased that it sounded like something positive, I really couldn’t recall what these 2 references specifically meant.

So she explained.

First, the garbage pails had to do with when we were physically restructuring our work area. Seems that my very first boss at Citi (Rajendra Kulkarni from the Brooklyn/Staten Island Regional Operations area way back in 1978) had recently relocated to San Antonio with Citi & was working on some cost-reduction initiatives for the entire site.

With all the hubbub associated with the renovation, he rejected a request for some very basic & inexpensive waste baskets for my people.

In fact, he wanted 2 employees to share a single receptacle!


Share a waste paper basket?

And I was pissed that he did this without first coming to me as I was the approving officer for that purchase order.

Then, with all the money that was being spent, he addresses something so incredibly menial & insignificant…and in my opinion, demeaning to my people.

Who the hell shares a waste basket? You stick in under, or by, your desk & you throw crap into it. (We had separate paper-recycling containers for every employee.)

This is how he wants to get involved?

I told (ordered?) Renee to now go & order the best possible waste baskets from the approved supplies catalog…and make sure each employee gets their own.

If anyone has anything to say about it, they are to come to me directly!

She prepared a new purchase order, I approved it & it sails through the process.

Waste baskets? Really?

The second item…the $500…involved something that personally happened to Renee.

Apparently, she had withdrawn a nice sum of cash early one day at the branch downstairs as she had to do some shopping for her daughter on her lunch hour.

I knew nothing of this. Wasn’t any of my business. Heck, people carry on with their personal stuff all the time without my poking my big ol’ schnozzola into everything.

But when Renee returned from lunch & was sitting in her cubicle, I noticed that she had her head down. Normally, she’s one of the most positive & upbeat people you’d ever wanna meet.

When I approached her to find out if she was OK & if there was anything I could do to help, it was obvious that she had been crying.

She had tears streaming down her face!

Fearing the worst, I immediately brought her into my office to talk.

“Are you OK? Everything OK with the kids? Your dogs?”

She was sobbing pretty badly.


She kept the cash for which she needed to buy stuff in a separate envelope in her purse.

Somehow, somewhere, when she first stopped for a bite to eat with her girlfriends during the lunch/shopping trip hour, she lost the envelope.

She discovered it when she arrived at the store & grabbed her purse.

She retraced her steps. Scoured the fast food joint’s parking lot & inside the place. Spoke with the workers & other customers. Called her friends who were at lunch with her. Checked the Citi parking lot & everywhere in between there & here. Called our Security Dept.


She was pretty distraught as she needed to get stuff for a special event for her daughter.

I tried to calm her down as best I could.

I then said that I’d also go downstairs to search the grounds & speak with a few of our Security guards.

While I did a very cursory review of the place & spoke with a couple of the guys, that really wasn’t why I went downstairs.

I went over to the Citi ATM on the ground level & withdrew $500 cash. I then brought it upstairs & placed it into a plain, white envelope.

I waited for the right opportunity when Renee was sitting down with one of her call monitors at their workstation to strike.

I quickly placed an inter office envelope on Renee’s desk…then snuck the envelope into her front desk drawer.

About 30 minutes later, she burst into my office & asked me why I did that!

I feigned ignorance. (I know a lot of you people believe ignorance comes very naturally to me…no need for any feigning, right?)


I said that maybe, it was there all the time & that she never put the envelope intonher purse after all.

“First off, Mike, it was in a different envelope. And secondly, I had all large bills…these are nothing but $20s & $10s!

You didn’t have to do this!”

“I still don’t know what you’re talking about & that’s my official statement on this matter, ya hear?”

She said that she’d find some way to pay me back, but I kinda knew that she couldn’t afford to do, at least, not right away.

“Don’t worry! Just make sure you get your daughter everything that she needs! And if you really wanna pay me back, you can always come & straighten out my home one afternoon!

“Now, no more of this nonsense, ya hear me?”

I believe her daughter had a school-sponsored trip to Washington, DC or something special that she hadda attend.

As it turned out, I had previously nominated Renee for a special CitiStars quarterly award (sort of an “employee of the quarter”). The winners were announced about 3 weeks or so after this unfortunate event.

Renee won one of these very select CitiStars awards!

Honestly, I can’t recall ever having an employee NOT win an award for which I nominated them. In my entire career.

This was one of the things for which I’m most proud.

I would always select a deserving employee, however…naturally.

And I always wrote the most glowing nomination you’ve ever read in your life!

I’d include as many performance statistics as humanly possible…document various incidents & examples during the applicable timeframe of the candidate’s exemplary performance…and use as many complimentary adjectives as I knew to describe the person & her significant contributions to the Unit, the business & the company in general.

I made it “impossible” for the selection committee to turn down my nominations.

I truly felt that I owed it to my people to always fight for them, no matter what, & to ensure that if anyone was doling out any rewards & recognition whatsoever, one of my my most-deserving people were gonna be right there at the head of the line.

C’mon, it’s the very least I could do to show my gratitude & appreciation for everything they did.

Always felt like a proud Poppa when one of my people got formally recognized for being a superior performer.

And I never, ever forgot the lessons I learned when I read the list of “Top 10 Employee Needs” (“Why people come to work”) early on in my career…

“Pay” & “Benefits” came in 6th & 7th, respectively.

I believe “Ability to advance & get ahead” was #3 and “doing work that I find challenging” #4.

But the top reason on why people came to work…THEIR GREATEST NEED…was “I want to be recognized & rewarded for a job well done”!

That stuck with me forever.

But I digress (for the nth thousandth time)…

It seems that the Quarterly CitiStars award was more than just a really-professional-looking framed certificate & the opportunity to receive plaudits from one’s adoring fans…a nice $500 check (actually, a $500 net direct deposit into the employee’s account, grossed up for any applicable taxes) accompanied everything.

And for all the conspiracy theorists out there in our listening audience today, I already mentioned that I nominated Renee for this award well before the “lost money” incident ever occurred. And I did NOT influence the decision of the judges in any way, shape or form after I submitted the nomination form.

I really hadn’t thought about it at all nor do I ever tell the employees whom I’ve nominated for what award.

I may let an employee’s manager know what I was doing, but in this case, Renee reported directly to me so she knew nothing about the nomination, nor her selection, until the formal announcement came weeks later.

After the CitiStars award ceremony, Renee approached me the following day in my office.

“Here, this is yours (handing me 💰)! I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me!”

“There is no need to do this, Renee! I really…”

“Stop! You know very well how much I appreciate your kindness & your friendship…but I have to do this.

“It’s the right thing!

“Thank you so much again!”

Can’t tell you how that whole thing made me feel.

How I felt when it actually happened several years ago & then again, when Renee reminded me of it in FB.

This has nothing to do with lending or giving money to your people.

In fact, I’d strongly recommend that you go nowhere near this type of thing. Could possibly destroy your career as you’d be surprised with what some people will do (or accuse you of doing)!

But it does have to do with taking a personal interest in your people. In their hopes & their dreams.

You know, in their lives.

I’ve always told my people that, whether they liked it or not, I would always try my best to treat them as I would my own family.

I’d love them unconditionally, but I’d also crack the whip when necessary.

Ensure they don’t miss curfew at night nor work the next morning. Figuratively speaking, that is.

I could be their best friend…or their worst enemy. It was all up to them.

Every leader, regardless of how large or small your team may be, plays a whole bunch of different roles.

The guidance counselor. The teacher. The prison warden. Father confessor. The angel. The devil. The good cop. The bad cop.

But every role you play depends on how your team is performing, as a whole as well as individually.

What’s happening, when, where & why.

There’s no set formula, just as there isn’t when you’re a parent.

Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do!

But it’s always nice to know that you actually did some good things for your people & that they’re appreciative for that.

Gives you a nice tingle.

After all, your life’s history is just a whole bunch of separate events, loosely tied together!

It’s not like it’s a book or some stupid  collection of essays. That’s not how you lived your life.

Regardless of the situation you found yourself in…

…regardless of the specific players involved…

…and regardless of how you felt about it, you simply always tried to do what you believed was “the right thing”.

Yeah, of course, there were many occasions where you weren’t successful in getting the desired outcome or even made the wrong decision, but I would hope that you always tried your very best to do the right thing!

As always, thank you so very much for listening!

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