Are Your Employees Helping or Hurting Your Business?
I walked into the local mailbox/shipping store to mail a few packages. As I reached the counter I noticed that the owner, Bob, and an employee, were having a heated heart-to-heart with one of the computer check-out systems. I still call it a cash register. I didn’t want to interrupt that event by saying, “Good morning,” so I took the necessary form that needed to be completed for shipping and filled it out. When finished I looked up and noticed that I was still the only customer in the store.
No one said a word to me. Then I realized why. They were busy! They didn’t even know I was there. They would get to me in due time, for Heaven’s sake. I just needed to be patient!
Also behind the counter was an employee reading a magazine and another, chomping a piece of gum to death while furiously texting on his phone. As I said, they were busy and did not notice my presence. This made me feel so warm and welcomed. Oh, but wait. I should be grateful. This is such great blog material. So, I just stood for a minute to see what would happen next. Three seconds later I decided I’d had enough. I walked up to “gum-chewer,” because he was closest to the check-out system.
“Good morning!” I said in a loud, cheery voice.
After a delay gum-chewer says,
“Hi,” not looking up because I caught him still in the process of his text conversation. How utterly rude of me.
I held the form in front of him. His eyes moved from his phone to the form, and never once did he so much as glance at me or apologize for keeping me waiting. Meanwhile, Bob was so caught up in his computer check-out nightmare that he was completely oblivious to the actions of his gum-chewing employee. Nor was he aware of my mounting irritation with this entire encounter.
Let’s jump to the point when I stopped gum-chewer from applying the label to my package.
“May I please review the label first?” I asked. Every employee at this company has always given me the label to check for accuracy before fixing it to my package. What was with this guy?
He semi-thrust the label toward me and I immediately noticed that the address was off.
“The street number is 7810 not 7910,” I said.
He said nothing, still did not make eye contact with me and began typing. Not an, “I’m sorry. Let me fix that.” Or even, “Oh.”
He then gave me another label that was correct; and still without any eye contact. I reviewed it. But before handing it back I stood there with the label in my hand, looking at him until he was forced to look up at me.
With a big smile on my face, I said,
“Did I do something to upset you?”
My statement caught the attention of Bob because I saw, through the corner of my eye, his head jerk up. At least I had his full attention.
Gum-chewer stared at me like a deer in the headlights then said,
“Because your lack of eye contact and engagement with me makes me feel that I am annoying you.” I said.
Gum-chewer shrugged his shoulders, shifted his eyes to the left, took the label from me and began fixing the label to my package without saying anything else.
At this point, Bob, who saw this exchange, came over and asked gum-chewer to go in the back to pack something while he took care of me.
Hold that thought.
What came to mind was a blog I had read a few weeks ago written by Lola Kakes, the Founder of EffortlessHR: Affordable, Easy to Use On-Line HR Software for Small Businesses. She is one of the leading Human Resources experts in the country. Ms. Kakes is also the author of, If You Don’t Own a Circus…You Shouldn’t Be Hiring Clowns!
She nailed my situation perfectly.
In her article Zombies in Your Workplace, Ms. Kakes states:
“Zombies drag down productivity. Everyone suffers when workers have to cover for a co-worker that can’t or won’t do their job properly. The competent workers become distracted and disillusioned and the incompetent workers cause havoc by making mistakes, falling behind and draining managers who don’t trust them to produce.”
Ms. Kakes further says that these,
“Work Zombies cost US companies between $450-$550 billion per year. Along with the additional costs of healthcare from actively disengaged employees, work zombies also incur additional costs from workplace theft, negatively influencing coworkers, skipping work, driving away customers, and less work output.”
This employee is clearly a “Work Zombie.” The question is, can he be saved?
After speaking to the manager about my encounter with his employee, he told me that he has noticed that his employee’s focus is not always where it should be and he would talk with him again. Really? Again?
Perhaps there is more to the story here. I always believe in giving the benefit of the doubt first. But the response of the manager also tells me that he may not have a handle on the situation because he himself is stressed and overwhelmed.
Think about your employees and ask yourself these questions.
How would you rank the level of engagement of your employees with your customers?
How often do you observe your employee/customer interaction to gain an accurate assessment of customer engagement?
What policies do you have in place concerning customer engagement from the minute a customer walks through your front door? For example:
At what point do you expect the employee to first speak with the customer?
What should the employee say?
What is the appropriate eye contact and when should it be made?
How much emphasis do you place on eye contact, having a smile on their face and conversational engagement?
What training do you have in place that teaches company workflow procedures?
What measurements are in place that ensures comprehension and execution of workflow procedures?
Do you allow your employees to be on their cell phones during work hours?
What is your policy?
How did you clearly explain the policy about cell phone usage to ensure understanding and compliance?
If someone abuses the cell phone policy what do you do?
What training do you have in place concerning your definition of customer service?
Do you role play various customer situations so your employees will have a safe environment to learn, make mistakes, and master these situations?
Here are some of the important questions you may want to ask if you find yourself with a Zombie for an employee.
Did I fail to properly train my employee on what I expect of them concerning their job responsibilities, rules of customer engagement and my definition and expectations of customer service?
Am I consistently holding my employee accountable for what I have trained them on and expect of them?
Does my employee see me as an example of consistently providing excellent customer service and skillful and meaningful customer engagement?
Do I have a corrective counseling program in place to help my employee become the productive team member I need them to be?
How often do I check-in with my employee to see how they feel about their job and if they feel they are heading in the direction that is right for them?
If the answer to the questions above is “Yes,” then ask yourself:
Did I make the wrong choice in hiring this person?
How much longer am I going to keep this employee on my payroll?
What is holding me back from letting this employee go?
If the answer to the questions above is “No,” then ask yourself:
What do I need to do to get my act together to set clear job responsibilities, rules of customer engagement and establish my definition and expectations of customer service?
What system do I need to create that will help me consistently monitor my employee’s job performance?
How do I hold myself accountable for providing the customer service and engagement that I expect my employee to maintain?
What do I need to do to create better communication between me and my employee?
In other words, to know if you have a Zombie on your hands determine if it is because:
You failed to properly train your employee.
You failed to set clear job expectations.
You are giving mixed messages and are not leading by example.
You have not established clear communication with your employee.
You truly do have a Zombie on your payroll and no amount of training will change this fact.
Back to my story.
Bob asked me to give him the full story of what happened between me and his employee. I explained the situation from my point of view. Bob told me that this employee was new and that his focus was not on his job. Bob said he would talk to the employee and he thanked me for being a long-time customer and hoped that I would not let this incident stop me from continuing to do business with him.
“Bob, you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. I appreciate all you have done for me over the years. That’s why I have taken the time to let you know what I just experienced with this employee. I’m still your customer but I will not be treated like that again. ” I said.
The next time I walked into Bob’s store, it was like déjà vu or rather, Groundhog Day. There was Bob having a heart-to-heart with that same check-out system, and now all three employees were completely focused on their cell phones. Not one person looked up to greet me or ask how they could be of service. Nothing had changed. Why did I tell Bob I would continue to business here?
Then, from the back of the store came this Sheri with a huge smile on her face. She walked up to me and said,
“Hi, Chiqeeta. Welcome back. How can I help you today?”
Sheri is no Zombie. She is a Keeper. Sheri is a Can-Doer. Immediately, I felt welcomed and appreciated. Her focus on me took my focus away from the Twilight Zone I felt I was in. It’s amazing how her positive energy changed the dynamics in that store for me. This Can-Doer is the reason I will continue to do business at Bob’s store.
If you have Zombies that won’t change their negative ways, get them out of your business. They are driving customers away and giving you a bad reputation as a business owner.
Focus on those employees who are Can-Doers; who are positive, caring and willing to go the extra mile. However, know that Can-Doers will only put up with Zombies for so long. If you don’t handle a Zombie- situation in a timely manner, Can-Doers will become discouraged, begin to resent you, their boss, for not being the leader you should be and they will leave for greener pastures.
Remember, to your customers, who you hire is a reflection, right or wrong, of who you are as a business owner and how you conduct business.
Think about your business, your employees. Re-read the questions above, assess your workforce and take the steps to replace the Zombies with Can-Doers.