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Hello from Massachusetts! (U.S.)

Author heidik1725
#1 | Posted: 15 Jan 2007 12:26 
Hello all-

My name is Heidi, I am the Customer Care Manager for a large E-Commerce business. Current challenges include:

1. Taking a rep who is very difficult to manage/acts somewhat rudely to customers, and turning her into someone "bright and shiny" (well, as bright and shiny as one can be..."

2. Managing a team who has never had a clear leader, but whose members consist of "lifers" (over 20 years of service!)...I'm trying to motivate, coach, and change to meet the new needs of the business.

Any suggestions anyone has will be greatly appreciated.


Author ayaree
#2 | Posted: 17 Jan 2007 04:56 
1... It might be useful to browse through literature on "managing difficult employees." I actually took a workshop in that very subject, but I honestly can't remember what was taught in that particular class, but there is usually at least one or two things I take from classes or books that I know I can apply in real life. What I would try to do is engage the person and make her understand that there is a perception of rudeness. "Perception is reality" even though it may be true that there is more to the story. If there are other qualities in her that are good, ensure you mention these and explain that if she can perform well on x and y, then she can also work on beating the challenge with interactive skills. Sometimes people who are perceived as rude can be the ones who are the most passionate about getting to the bottom of a problem and helping. I recently had such a person and I had a difficult time in getting her to "make the positive intentions show on the outside." She left (due to a company relocation), so I never got to see my goal thru the end, but I did see her develop relationships with internal and external customers that appreciated her motivation and her problem solving. This person was perceived as rude but she was also showered with compliments and gifts....My writing style is very "conceptual," so I am not sure if I am helping, but I think it comes down to finding ways to take other parts of a personality and getting the person to use those to cancel out the problem in other parts.
2...Being a mgr of "lifers" is very challenging. It is even challenging if employees have only been there a year or 6 months before you sometimes. Sometimes people with years of service possess great attitudes and like where they are, but there are others who are OK with where they are, but they have negative influence on peers. Not sure what your situation is. I think what might work is to have in mind the idea that everybody needs to feel that they "contribute" and everyone gets a turn to see why they count. When it comes to people that have been around for ages, I would make sure they knew they I appreciated their experience and wanted them to find ways to use it to build opportunities for others to learn (for the manager or the peer). Another thing I would do is to make sure they saw me delivering on what I said I would do, which is a general mgmt skill that matters in almost any context, because you respect someone when they do what they say and don't forget it. The perception there is that the team matters to you enough to follow thru and "work for them" in return for the work they do for you.

Pls let me know if that at least gets you somewhere...

Author sbdavies
#3 | Posted: 17 Jan 2007 07:58 
Hello from the UK!

Being a lifer, at least in one of the companies I worked for, 26 years! I can give you a view from that side. One problem with modern business is that that there always seems to be a need for managment to grasp a methodology or program that is "the latest thing" when really it is common sense dressed up in fancy jargon. Once you have been around for a while you see this over and over and if it is over done and pushed onto people as being the answer to all the problems of a business, it does make you a little cynical and jaded and I speak as having been a service delivery manager and a customer services manager.

Some people of course get comfortable in their jobs and just like to left alone and trundle along, these are the pepole that do need motivating . There is always parts of their work they think could be better and the best option is to get them to speak about it and come up with ideas how best to tackle it. The hard part is to get the ball rolling without coming across as preaching. There may be dead wood amonst "lifers" but there is also a wealth of experience and knowledge that is often over looked and under used.

Good luck!

Author cedennis
#4 | Posted: 29 Jan 2007 08:20 
Hello, Heidi. I am a customer service consultant in the Boston area.

The issues you are experiencing are not unusual in the world of service personnel. There are always some tough employees who insist on doing things their way, and who let their moods dictate their interactions with customers and fellow-workers. It always boggles my mind as to why these kinds of people sought service-related positions in the first place, and how they were actually hired to be in these positions. I have always maintained that the primary criteria for any customer contact position is a desire to be of assistance to others. Industry and product knowledge can always be learned, but the heart-felt ability to help others is something that defines a person.

That said, it seems like this is the time you need to have a sit-down with your troubled emplyee, and let her know that the requirements of her position include being courteous and helpful to all customers, and being able to take direction and instruction from her manager. These are non-negotiable points, and if she is not adhering to these requirements, she is not adequately performing her job, and is therefore not of any use to the organization.

Sounds harsh, but these are critical issues here. Customers are won, and kept, with every interaction. All it takes is one bad experience, and a customer will walk away, and take a lifetime of business with them (not to mention all of the potential business from others whom they will tell about the bad experience). If this happens once, it is bad. If it happens several times, your organization will feel the pain. As a customer service manager, you can not allow it to happen.

As for dealing with the "lifers," this is another situation that many of us have had to grapple with. You were obviously put in the manager's position for a reason. I don't know if you were formerly a peer of the lifers or if you came in from another department or organization. But either way, the situation is the same. You have been given goals and standards by senior management, and your job is to get your team to achieve these. One of the toughest things for me to grasp when I first became a manager (way back when dinosauers roamed the earth!), was that I did NOT need to have all the answers, all the time, to justify my title. The best advice I ever recieved was to encourage participation from my team. Obviously, the final call was mine as manager, but getting ideas and comments from the people who were going to have to work under my direction was crucial to their buy-in. This is where the lifers may have some really valuable input for you. Don't be afraid to tap into those resources, and to give them public credit for their input. If done correctly, these are the kind of employees who can allow you to shine as a manager.

However, with both your troublesome employee and your lifers, the bottom line is that you all have responsibility to the organization's goals, and the best way to achieve those goals is to lay them out on the table, and roll up your sleeves, and say, "Folks, this is what we have been directed to do. We are in this together, so who has some ideas as to how to make this work." You can do this! This really does work, if you are sincere.

If I can be of any assistance in your endeavors, please feel free to contact me.


Chuck Dennis

Who's Who Customer Service Manager Forum / Who's Who /
 Hello from Massachusetts! (U.S.)

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