Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
Q: We’re a small company. I can’t afford to spend money on everyone for training. Is it wrong if I attend the training workshops alone and then train the employees?
Train the trainer is a well-known and accepted practice not only by small to medium-sized companies, but by large corporations too. Having said that, there are pitfalls you need to be aware of. First, your employees will miss out on being in the training facility, listening, participating, asking, and having side conversations with other attendees about the topic, which are elements that add to the learning experience and cement it more in the memory. Second, there are potential communication gaps between what the instructors say, what you understand, what you express to your employees and what they understand from you. Third, not every good learner is a good teacher. What if your employees ask you deep questions and you don’t have the full knowledge or expertise to answer as a practicing instructor usually has?
You can’t also ignore human nature. One employee might not see your decision to attend all workshops yourself as fairness to all staff, but rather selfishness with the training budget. And as you know, it only takes one person to spread a bad vibe virus inside a company; and before you know it, negative morale is everywhere, like Ebola in an African hospital. A more balanced approach is to rotate workshop attendance among you. Make it a policy that whoever attends a workshop has to teach it to the rest of the team within one week of the workshop ending for the purpose of sharing knowledge. But learning doesn’t come from workshops alone. Online content, books, magazines, discussions, coaching, mentoring, to name a few, are all forms of learning experiences and some of them are free…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: When I complain to a support agent about not calling me back as promised, the answer is usually, “We don’t have an answer yet. That’s why we didn’t call you.” How hard is it for companies to update their customers regardless?
Almost everyone can recall the number of incidents when customer support agents say they’ll call back and never do. Has anyone ever thought of the reasons why they don’t call back? Let’s break it down: Some companies don’t have any system in place to track and update the progress of an incident in a centralized and shared platform that allows the person who registered the complaint to find out what happened. For companies that do have such systems, most of their front desk employees are not empowered to push the matter forward internally and find an answer or a solution. In other cases, overload and long internal communication policies create a bureaucratic culture that delays feedback. That’s not counting the possibility that the agent is simply an unprofessional person working in a mediocre business.
What many businesses don’t realize is that keeping a promise to a customer goes a long way as far as loyalty and reputation are concerned. You’ll be surprised how absent this notion is in practice. To provide a more fulfilling customer experience companies should reward their front desk agents for keeping promises, for genuinely listening, and for following up; basically, for doing the right thing. Why? Because employees do whatever matters to management to improve their careers. If a manager only cares about reducing the number of seconds an agent spends over the phone with a customer, then that agent will definitely not care to call a customer back just to say, “Sorry that your issue is not resolved yet. I know you’re waiting for feedback. You will receive a call from me tomorrow as soon as a solution is available”…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: I hate it when we make mistakes with customers. I get nervous and start thinking about being fired or penalized. How can I cope with mistakes without stressing out?
No decent business wants to deliberately do wrong by customers. But it is mistakes that show the true colors of employees and management. Many companies try to weasel themselves out of problems when they fear the possibility of financial loss. Only a few businesses take ownership of their mistakes and do whatever it takes to fix them. Here are three quick tips on handling mistakes: (1) Do whatever you can to avoid making the mistake in the first place. Prevention is better than the cure. (2) If a mistake takes place, cure the condition; don’t treat it. A treatment is a temporary solution that doesn’t guarantee preventing a problem from being repeated. A cure is a permanent fix. Look into what you can improve to stop the same problem for good. (3) Be a professional. You made a mistake. Pay the price and move on.
A mistake is like a torch in the dark; it shows you the way. Mistakes don’t highlight what’s right, but they help you to quickly identify areas that require immediate attention so you can improve and strengthen what you’re doing well. How your business responds to mistakes, what you learn from them, and what you do to avoid the same mistakes in the future are the activities that separate serious companies from amateur ones…and that’s just my two cents
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected]. Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management adviser and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.