Career Owners in the Customer Space

I’ve had several recent encounters with customer service people and each of them made clear how their job ‘fit’ them: as a renter or an owner.

My first was with my personal trainer, Tami, who is always fully focused on each client. She has the ability to walk that fine line between making me sweat and making me whine. No complaints, always a positive thing…I don’t like the work, necessarily, but I do appreciate her awareness of where I am both physically and mentally. (She’s with Equivita, a terrific place by the way!) Tami owns her client focus and tailors it beautifully.

Customer service for captive customers!

Customer service for captive customers!

My second encounter was in the McDonald’s drive through. I know what I’m in for at most fast-food places, and I often find the “window” folks to be personable and engaging. This one was an exception— the employee never made eye contact. Normally I wouldn’t think much of it, especially when the transaction is bolstered by conversation, but this one wasn’t. She said 3 words to me: $3.86, and thank you. She wasn’t rushed and she wasn’t taking another order…she just looked away and didn’t respond to me at all. My sense was that the sooner I left, the sooner she could be anywhere else. Definitely renting the space behind the cash register.

And then, back in my office, I took a call from Staples—don’t know why because I was juggling 3 or 4 things—and 23 minutes later we were finally finished.

I spent that time with Victoria who not only did her “job,” but she raised the level of Staples’ credibility and customer know-how by about 120%! Her first order of business was to give me, as a Premier Customer, my choice of a 4th category in which to save 10% on all purchases…and, of course, an appreciation call is a fine thing. [In the interests of total disclosure, I expect that I’m a premier customer because my trips to Staples are like many people’s trips to ice cream shops—fun in the short haul, but we’re caught in the end! For me that ‘end’ is paying for the cart full of goodies that I couldn’t pass up.]

She gave me the name of the manager at my local store and told me about him. She gave me her name and contact number and repeated how important getting to know customers was to the Staples culture. She asked me about my company, CompassPoint Coaching. And, through the whole conversation, I never once felt that she wanted to be talking to the next customer on her list—and I expect she had a long one.

When I asked her how Staples does training and leadership development, she said a most interesting thing. She said that before training comes hiring—and that Staples wants to make sure they do the best hiring and get the right people on board. They look for quality and don’t hire a body to replace a body, or to fill a spot—it’s important to Staples that their employees connect with their customers to establish ongoing relationships.

And then, after hiring, they teach and reinforce their culture. She mentioned that she was reading about emotional intelligence and how important the emotional connection of employees is in order to develop the relationships that create the emotional connections with customers. She told me about her background, that she’s been with Staples for several years and that the culture is one focused on coaching employees to improved skills and competencies. I didn’t have to ask her if she liked her job—she was doing work she loved!

We talked about using social media for hiring, research, and other great things, and that while computers are said to take away the personal connection, intentionally-used social sites actually allow for an often more-personal connection…kind of a counter intuitive thing.

While we were talking she went to my websites, and asked about how I found my clients and if the economy was having any effect on that. We discussed coaching results and the coaching environment of Staples. She never once sounded forced, bored, phony or like she was “just doing her job.” It was probably the most “fun” I’ve ever had with a cold customer call from a supplier. I’m still not sure why I answered the phone when the caller ID registered Staples, but I’m glad I did. What great observations I’ve had on the scope of customer service and how refreshing to know that I do business with several—Equivita and Staples—that do it right!

Within 15 minutes of finishing my call with Victoria I had an email follow-up from her with the details of the “business” part of our conversation, and a second email with an invitation from her to connect on Linked In! A few days later she helped me navigate my research into a new pc.

How refreshing to work with someone who believes that customers are indeed a critical part of the business model and treats them as such. Career owners see the long term, and recognize its importance. In this quantum physics (v. Neutonian) world, that long-time connection creates a very comfortable place to return.