Archives for January 2011

Let Them Figure it Out. Then Support Them.

I’ve spent a lot of years buying my kids great computers, surrounding them with programming books, even taking them to work related events where geeks talk about programming.

But I never tried to force them into following a programming career.  But knowing they know computers is still important.

My son handed me a rock when he was 12.  He asked me to take it to my then boss.  My then boss was a genius.  He invented raster-graphics, has a ton of patents in WiFi and networking, but he was a trained Geologist.

My then boss talked to me for an hour about that rock.  And I came home and told my son, “this is an awesome rock”.  I did not remember the technical, but non-computer related details that my ex-boss shared. They were extensive, and impressive.  Just not memorable (to me).

Now, many years later, my son declared his Major – in Geology.  The guy has always loved rocks. And found fossils, and perhaps even a couple meteorites.

I know he will be a better Geologist because he also knows computers.  But his passion is in rocks, so I applaud him.

Follow the passion.  If you are doing what you love to do, you will probably be happy.

I will never write a book about what I care mostly about – why is that?

I love taking care of customers, and there have been so many great books that can teach you the mechanics of taking care of a customer.  When to shut up, when to speak up.  When to pay up.  Even when to suck up.

I can’t write any of that any better than anyone else has already done (and possibly not even any worse).  At best I could come up with a smarter title and better marketing – so perhaps my book would sell better than someone else’s book. But it would not add any more real value to the conversation.

I would love to add a chapter to each of these books though.  I would call it something like, “When to (politely) tell your MGT to go to hell and do what you need to do to make things right”.

Of course, I have never, and never anticipate telling my MGT to go to hell – I’m not suicidal.  I have had lengthy conversations about which of us are correct though 🙂  But does my MGT know how far I will go, how much hell I will raise, and how many people I will wake to serve a customer?  They do.  You don’t get a title like “Chief Disruption Officer” by swimming in calm waters.

My chapter would focus on making sure that your organization had that guy or gal that cares more for customers than anything.  That isn’t afraid to get fired for fighting for them.  Because they are expected to do just that.  They are paid to raise a bit of hell, wake up a couple VPs if needed.  Call the Chairman of the Board on a Sunday, if that is what it takes.

This is a customer advocate at best. One that is unafraid, because they are expected to err on the side of the customer.

Many have discussed the notion of the employee who is “untouchable” – meaning they can’t get fired without a huge payout (hell, we do this in sports all the time, why not do the same with customer advocacy!?!).  That gets them the freedom to never sacrifice customer experience. And it is mostly a good idea.  But like everything, it is not a perfect idea.  It could be abused and used for purposes other than serving customers.

I actually like almost the opposite of “untouchable” – I like the notion of “damn near fired” more 🙂

I like it when I push us.  I like it when I make us uncomfortable with finding a solution to a customer issue.  I like that I am sitting on the edge of the wall – and that I could easily be pushed off if I don’t stick to what is right, what is true, and what is fair. And do it in such a way that everyone wins – at least a little.  YOu can never succeed if your goal is to create a loser.

You become as close to “untouchable” as you can get by trying to find a way for everyone to win.  And it isn;t a balance, because it is hardly “even”.  Even is generally where you are at when you get invited into the conversation – everyone thinks they have already given too much.

Winning is getting one of them to move, just a bit.  And having them feel good about it.

The Difference Between Knowing the Name of Something and Knowing Something

I meet a lot of people online and off that profess to “know” social media, and/or how to serve customers.  They often describe themselves as “gurus” or “mavens”.  “Experts”, or “teachers”.

It is amazing to me how seldom many of these people actually practice what they preach. I recently talked to a guy that wrote a book on caring for customers, but beyond the people that buy his book – he has no customers.  And he hasn’t talked to a customer in 15 years, he admitted.

To me he is someone that knows the name of something, but he doesn’t “know something” – he writes about customer service as a “theory”.  Sorry, you cannot know that which you do not practice.

This video kind of makes my point.

Instead of pretending to be an expert in customer service, I hone my skills almost daily – by actually talking to customers.  I’ll never write a book about it, because I will never be done learning about it.  And I’ll never be arrogant enough to think I am a “guru”.

I just care enough to learn more about it than just the name.  And I am open enough to let the real teachers teach me every day – my customers.

And sorry, dude.  I won’t be buying your book.