Friday 13 March 2009

Talk, talk, talk

Here we go again. This happens every year or two.

As you read this we will be graced yet again by the inestimable presence of John Tschohl, the man who was apparently once described by Time magazine as a “client service guru”. He’s been brought over again by our National Productivity Centre who seem to continue to believe that we need people to fly in for a few days, fill up our increasingly expensive hotels and read out the content of their books, as if we’re can’t read them ourselves.

Ahh, but some will say, it’s his presence that matters. His physical presence, his inspirational, motivational, educational speeches will somehow inspire us to become the customer service centre of the world. These people will say that simply being in his holy presence will somehow magically inspire the attendees to go forth and multiply their customer’s happiness. Some of his magic will miraculously wear off on those fortunate enough to have been touched by his message.

So here’s a question. If his presence the last time he was here was so influential, why does he feel the need to come back and do it all again? If he’s so good, if these uplifting speeches are so, well, uplifting, why hasn’t his last trip uplifted anything?

The only thing I can see that it will have uplifted is his bank balance.

Here’s another question. If he is so committed to improving poor little Botswana, if his message is so relevant to us in Botswana, if his powerful presence offers so much to Botswana, why can’t he spell “Botswana”?

Last time he was here in Botswana (I’m repeating the name of our country often so he and his team can see how to spell it) he send out a paper in advance that outlined his message. In it he consistently referred to “Bostwana”. His web site lists many clients including “Bostwana National Productivity Centre” and “Ministry of Local Government (Bostwana)”. In response to this here’s another Consumer Watchdog rule to add to your collection. It’s similar to our rule regarding preachers: “Never trust a preacher who drives a better car than you do.”

Our new rule is “Never trust a highly-paid consultant who can’t spell his customer’s name correctly.”

One of the many ironies is that I bet somewhere in Jon Scholl’s (yes, I DID mean to spell it incorrectly) motivational presentation will have been the word “respect”. Something about showing respect to your customer, empathising with their emotional needs, giving all those non-verbal clues that you respect them. This from someone who can’t even be bothered to spell our country’s name correctly?

I think that you should judge a wandering consultant guru not by the enormous self confidence they possess. I think you should judge them by their actions, their background and their results.

Take the so-called Dr Steven Covey who was also here in Botswana (reminder to the John Tschohl team, that’s how you spell it) recently. “Dr” Covey has a doctorate. Impressive eh? Not THAT impressive when you learn that it’s a Doctorate in Religious Education from Brigham Young University. That’s the Mormon university where he got his doctorate not in business, management or philosophy but in Mormon Church History and Doctrine.

Now I’m not going to ridicule his religion, but I do think it’s interesting to consider that he got his doctorate (which, let me remind you was in Mormon doctrine) from a church whose doctrine until 1978 didn’t allow black people to become priests.

Back to the subject. John Tschohl is back again giving away his tips, experience and an enormous range of platitudes. Well, OK, not exactly giving them away, he’s selling them. By the time you read this he will have finished and maybe I should be optimistic and charitable? Maybe by the time you read this all the people fortunate enough to have received His Word will have become inspirational, entrepreneurial, driven and dynamic customer service champions.

Somehow I doubt it.

I’ve said this before, I know I repeat myself endlessly, but what we need is not to repeat endlessly the same old lessons about customer service. We all know them already, we’ve all heard them before, we know them inside out. What we need is action.

So here’s our free guide to excellent customer service. Tell all your staff, in writing, to do what they KNOW already has to be done. Tell them that from now on it is compulsory for them to use their own intelligence to satisfy customers. It is compulsory for them to treat customers with respect, concern and understanding.

One week later remind them again, in writing, that this is what you require them to do.

Another week later take a walk around your organisation and watch them in action. Every time you see one of your staff greet a customer without eye contact and a smile fire them on the spot. Every time you see an employee fail to apologise when they answer their cellphone while dealing with a customer fire them on the spot. Every time you see a customer walk in and not be helped by someone who CAN help them, fire that person on the spot.

Don’t worry, you’ll get away with it. You gave them two written instructions, their failure to follow them is gross professional misconduct.

The next thing you do is to take another walk around. Every time you see one of your team dealing with a customer well, pat them on the back. The second time you see that person do well give them a handful of cash as a bonus. The tenth time you see them do it promote them to team leader on the spot.

Isn’t that inspirational? And free!

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