Thursday, 11 March 2010

Amateur hour

According to Wikipedia “the Original Amateur Hour” was a radio program broadcast in the USA beginning in the 1940s and continuing for several decades. It was the forerunner of all the talent shows we see on local and international TV these days. Complete amateurs, often completely without talent (see, nothing really changes) could present their talents on air and be judged by the public.

Please don’t tell anyone but I’ve been known to watch these shows, if only to remind myself how ridiculous the human race can be. Yes, I know every so often they find someone with an astonishing, previously unknown talent, but in order to find these rare creatures they have to sift through the enormous mass of completely talent (and dignity)-free humanity.

At this point I suspect that some of the more pious Mmegi readers will be commenting that we’re all born with some divinely-donated talent, we only have to find it. Rubbish. As evidence I give you American and European bankers and, in particular, their respective governments. These incompetents have demonstrated their complete lack of ability by almost ruining various economies and have had an enormous impact on everyone around the world. Do I need to remind you that it was these governments that bribed their idiotic banker friends to lend money to people who would never be able to repay it, all so the contemptible politicians could buy a few votes?

Despite what many people are saying I don’t actually think it was the system itself that was to blame. Blaming capitalism for these problems is like blaming Toyota if your taxi driver takes a wrong turn. It’s the driver that was wrong, not the tools that were at fault.

Unfortunately, like with the Western bankers, there are some people that seem to have no discernible talent or, perhaps as bad, people who have no talent in the area in which they work. We’ve all seen this. We’ve all heard it as well. Why, I can’t help ask myself, would a radio station appoint as a brand new presenter to a critical slot in their schedule, someone who had never presented a radio show before? What were they thinking? How could the management think it would work? I know that when you see radio stations portrayed on TV it always shows loads of fancy equipment and, behind a glass screen, a producer who handles the phone calls, the sound levels, the research and probably the coffee as well. Well, that’s NOT how it works in ANY of the radio stations I’ve visited here in Botswana. Every single presenter I’ve seen has worked solo, pushed the buttons, played the music, connected to the news and the adverts, got the coffee himself or herself. So I can’t understand how a supposedly professional radio station can appoint someone to a job as demanding as this who’s never done it before. And who clearly had been put through NO training at all. I’m sorry but the first few mornings were embarrassing. You could almost hear the sound of people in traffic jams switching over to another radio station.

The same goes for customer service specialists. I’ve met and worked with a number of people whose job is meant to be about improving the quality of service their organisation provides and it’s astonishing how much they vary. Of course there are some who are brilliant at it. They just have that combination of genes, experience and education that make them naturally right for the job. On the other hand there are some who are wholly unsuitable. They don’t care, they don’t understand WHY customer service is important (making lots of money) and they often end up causing more harm than good. The surprising thing is that it’s not industry-specific. There are excellent service specialists in parastatals and even in the Public Service while there are some in the private sector who absolutely, completely and comprehensively suck at customer service.

The big question for HR people and their customer service customers is whether you can train people to be good at customer service. The answer is simple. No, you can’t. Feel free to call me politically incorrect but I think there are certain professions you need to be born into. Nursing is one, teaching is another. If you aren’t born with the aptitudes needed in these professions you are going to find it VERY hard to be successful in them. Customer service is yet another example.

If you are ever faced with the decision, please don’t recruit anyone to a customer service position unless they either have a proven track record that you know about or they have passed some serious psychometric testing to see if they have the required personality and skills to do well. Please don’t just appoint someone because it would look good on their CV (or yours). Please appoint professionals and let’s put an end to amateur hour.

Some updates

Just to repeat our most recent warnings. Please have nothing to with Dalberto Sponsors, TVI Express or Uniglobe New Era Travel. They are all crooks that will take your money and then run away laughing at you.

This week’s service stars
  • Lesego at BPC for brilliant service.
  • The BPC call centre for being “great”.
  • Café Dijo at Kgale Shopping Centre in Gaborone, yet again!

No comments: