If most practices need service champions on their team, why do so many settle for mere chameleons?
A ‘service champion’ is created from an individual with a very good attitude; someone who wants and needs to do well in business… and therefore a person who submits to study, practise, making mistakes and gradually getting it right.
Even then they keep looking for improvement and welcome all the help they can get, from any quarter… and if they don’t get help from those they know and work for, they find other ways to learn, through books, CDs, online study, etc.
Service champions have big aspirations but not big heads. Although usually quiet in nature, their work leaves competitors far behind… as with great players on the sporting field.
The answer lies in leadership: an expectation from management that should be as decisive about service behaviour as it is about budget achievements.
Sadly, there are few true service champions in business.
Conversely, chameleons are everywhere you look in the corporate world, and especially in service and selling. This description basically means ‘pretenders’ and ‘amateurs’. It’s a brittle breed, and easily recognised through its (largely unintended) use of excuses and lies. For example, show a chameleon an idea that is radical and opportunistic and they will say, ‘I already do that’. Most don’t already do that of course, they are just scared to death of giving themselves away, hence such language. And they use endless excuses as ideal ways to deflect accountability… with phrases like, ‘we are being beaten on price’, or ‘if we had better brands then sales would be fine’, or ‘I don’t get time to sell with all the other stuff I have to deal with’, etc.
I think most chameleons would like to be champions but they have not yet been ‘bitten by the bug’, in the sense of having real aspirations or being held accountable for higher standards of conduct. That means they have to protect themselves from management scrutiny, criticism and possibly harsher measures.
Put them on the Line
There is only one sure way for management to weed out the chameleons or transform them into champions. The answer lies in leadership: an expectation from management that should be as decisive about service behaviour as it is about budget achievements.
I say ‘should be’ because the fact is too many managers tolerate average service conduct and sales results from people. This occurs because menial managers are more office-driven than market-driven: they don’t know what customers really need from their team, and they certainly don’t know how their staff are behaving to customers right now.
You will never find such complacency displayed by directors in the theatre; they know if every performance was good or bad, and they know whether cast members were good or bad as well.
As manufacturers make and must stand by their product claims, so too must managers who run optometry practices make, and stand by the claims they make, about their service team at the championship level. In one sense this is absolutely basic, however it rarely happens. It is a fact that most managers do not know how their team members perform in front of customers; they only know how they perform behind the customers’ backs in the safety of practice meetings. That’s when they ‘hear’ all the chameleon talk; the pretence, the lies, the excuses… and because there are far more chameleons than champions, there’s no need to guess at what they hear most of the time.
Office-bound managers who don’t know about service team conduct, and have no contact with customers that can ‘fill them in’ by revealing the truth, will most often choose to take sides with their staff. After all, the alternative is to be seen as a lousy, lame leader, which would never do.
There will of, course, be occasional outbursts from management about ‘results’ but this mostly involves hot air, and staff usually survive such eruptions with great ease.
How to Create Service Champions
If you are a manager and you want to leave all this nonsense behind you, then create an ‘amnesty’ of sorts, using the following ‘service champion’ steps:
- Call a meeting and explain that you have an apology to make to everyone, namely that (as with product quality) there is a need to ensure that all team members must offer a high quality of service to customers… and this has not been done in the past, but it will be done in the future;
- Explain that you are going to involve customers in discussing their higher needs of staff, so as to set new, high standards of behaviour, and that the team will take part in this exercise too;
- Work with customers and the team to agree on a set of service standards, and include all the sales devices they will need;
- Work with the team to ensure they practise service and selling (up-serving) strategies, to the point of ‘doing it right every time’;
- Make it your business to observe staff perform in front of customers, and offer positive feedback as well as ideas on how to achieve improvement in their work;
- Invite external service champions to address your team on a regular basis, so they see what works… and so they know you are serious, and they can’t escape!
You can call me anytime if you want to discuss this challenge. Or email me with your views or questions.
John Lees is a speaker, trainer and consultant, specialising in sales and marketing. He is the author of 11 books on business development.
You can find out more about his services and books, CDs and DVDs at www.johnlees.com.au