leadership dot #2111: connection

There is much written about the importance of belonging and the positive impact it has on well-being, but I have always been hesitant to fully embrace the concept as an organizational goal. Belonging is not something that can be easily facilitated or practiced every day. Belonging can also be seen as an extroverted concept and conjures up images of being part of a large group or team, something that is not comfortable for everyone.

I am much more in favor of the concept of “mattering” as described by Nancy Schlossberg and discussed in dot #416. Schlossberg’s research showed that people needed to feel that they mattered to someone else – a more personal concept than belonging – and something more easily accomplished one-to-one and in short-term situations. Mattering is the feeling that you matter to someone else and you would be missed if you were not there.

Another concept that resonated with me is that of “responsiveness”, written about in Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (see more about their book in dot #2107). The Heaths describe responsiveness as the core tenant of successful relationships. To achieve it, partners must provide: understanding, validation and caring – in other words, “attunement” to how we see ourselves, respect of who we are and what we want, then the taking of supportive steps to help meet those needs. Responsiveness makes relationships stronger and more secure, whether they be of personal or professional nature.

Hospitals that are more responsive to patient needs receive higher satisfaction scores. Employees who believe their supervisor is responsive to them as a person have greater engagement and productivity. Teachers who are more responsive to their students help them learn more effectively. Customer service representatives who are more responsive to their clients are perceived as serving them better.

While belonging to a tribe may be the long-term goal, an initial positive connection can be cultivated more quickly and frequently through one-on-one responsiveness and mattering. Whether you are on a client call, meeting with a colleague or supervising an employee, begin by learning what is important to them and then respond in a way that shows that it matters.

leadership dot #2110: sleep

Most organizations don’t go deep enough when articulating to their customers and employees what they truly offer, but one hotel succinctly and clearly articulated their core purpose. You may think that hotels offer beds or showers or shelter, but, as one Holiday Inn Express described it, what they really sell is sleep.

Being clear about this purpose allowed them to take steps to ensure that they could deliver it. Signs were posted in the lobby reminding others to keep the volume down. There were signs on each floor outside the elevator. Each guest had to sign an agreement acknowledging that they understood the “quiet hour” policy and would abide by it. The hotel staff reminded guests of the policies during check-in. They were serious about it, and you could tell.

Think about the core service that you deliver. For banks, it isn’t checking or savings, rather security. For colleges, it isn’t credits or degrees rather opportunity. For restaurants, it isn’t the food, rather the ambiance and dining experience that allows conversation and connection to occur.

The Holiday Inn Express staff were not the only ones delivering “sleep” to the guests. They created an environment and culture where everyone in the facility was working toward the same end. Isn’t that what we all dream of for our organizations?

leadership dot #2106: located

Today’s dot provides an example of the flip side of the (lack of) service I wrote about yesterday. When it was apparent that no tailor was going to return my destroyed hat to normalcy, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to see if they still had the same item in stock.

The winter displays had been replaced with a mega-selection of baseball uniforms so I asked whether hats had been moved elsewhere or were gone. The clerk promptly radioed the “apparel manager” who returned moments later with hats from storage. They did not have the exact cap I wanted, so she brought the same style in youth sizes (in case it was not for me), and similar styles in two other brands. She even offered to price-match the more expensive one to the same price as the one I was seeking. When I hesitated, she went online and began searching there and successfully located it for me!

This staff member was a problem-solver – offering a multitude of alternatives and options in an attempt meet my needs as closely as she could. Note that she did not even have the product in stock that I wanted, but she still provided excellent service.

The experience at Dick’s was as good as the cleaners’ was bad. Remember my experiences when you train your staff. The reputation of your company resides in the front-line clerk.

leadership dot #2105: unraveled

On a whim of hopeful optimism, I took my winter coat, hat and scarf to the dry cleaners for the end-of-season cleansing. What I got back was a coat, a scarf and an unraveled pile of yarn.

The once-was-a-hat was hanging in the plastic just like the other items, with no note or acknowledgment that the item was no longer functional. When I pointed the damage out to the attendant, she offered no apology. Instead, she took it back and said that they would send it to the tailor and if it could not be fixed then I could come back in and file a claim to receive pro-rated damages.

I am sure that this is not the first article to be damaged, making me wonder why there is not a process in place to address it in a way that preserves the customer relationship. It’s bad enough to ruin an item, but why make the client come back at least once, and only offer a partial settlement instead of replacing it? I wonder if I am going to get a refund on the dry cleaning cost!

Mistakes do happen, but I would have felt much better if they had said: “We want to let you know that the machine damaged your hat. We are so sorry! We sent it to the tailor who could not repair it, so here is a refund as well as no charge on your order.”

Every organization has processes that go wrong but don’t let your reputation unravel because of them. Customer service ratings are highest for organizations that effectively respond to service failures. You’d be wise to proactively prepare for missteps so you can wow your customers instead of losing them.

leadership dot #2102: assurance

With the number of recent trades and team-swapping in the NBA, some fans are understandably nervous about investing in a jersey of their favorite player for fear that it may be obsolete in the short term.

The NBA Store and American Express have teamed up to offer a “Jersey Assurance” program that allows fans to switch jerseys if the player switches teams. With the number of restrictions on the program, it is unlikely that there will be a huge financial loss, but there could be a substantial gain.

The Jersey Assurance program is a way to encourage purchases but makes everyone feel better if a trade happens.

Think of how you can adopt a component of this program and do something to mitigate perceived risk. Maybe your providers aren’t traded, but providing some assurance to your customers is a slam dunk.

leadership dot #2088: retrofit

When the Hynes Convention Center was built in 1988, none of the architects could have anticipated that there would be a great demand by delegates for power outlets. The same is true for airports and most public spaces. Even with the relatively low cost and ease of attaining supplemental batteries, everyone seems to want to plug in their device and access wi-fi on demand.

Hynes has retrofitted its public spaces to incorporate charging stations in each of the planters in the lobby. During the convention I attended, these gathering points were in frequent use as people sat around watching the battery on their phone turn green. They are so popular that directions to “charging stations” even have been added to the master signage in the building.

Think about your product and what you might need to modernize to meet consumer demand. Cars have added USB ports as a standard feature. New shopping carts come with cup holders. Buildings come with Family restrooms. Businesses have added scanners for Apple Pay and Google Pay to accommodate electronic funds. What can you retrofit in your organization to retrofit your services for modern times?

leadership dot #2070: now

There is a fine line between convenience and lazy and the distinction is getting more blurry by the day.

First, there was Amazon Prime, but now two-day delivery seems ordinary so they have introduced Prime Now that delivers to many places within the hour. Amazon offers Dash Buttons that allow you to re-order a product with just a touch instead of having to do all that work of looking up the item again.

It wasn’t enough that Siri could send texts or make calls for you; now Echo, Google Home and Alexa can turn on music, adjust temperatures, and look up information at the sound of your voice. Reading email on your smartphone has gone from cutting edge to cumbersome, so it is now available on your smartwatch. Your voicemails are converted to texts so you can access them more quickly.

I wonder what people are doing with all the time that they have saved.

Apparently not going to Ash Wednesday services. A church in St. Louis is acknowledging the desire of some people to do things more quickly by offering a “drive-thru ashing” today. Instead of needing to attend a regular Ash Wednesday service in a church, Manchester United Methodist is reaching out to those on the go by providing ashes in a highly visible lot along a major road. Priests will be available throughout the day to administer ashes to people without them having to leave their car.

Whether you applaud all these conveniences or lament the growing prevalence of shortcuts, “now” has become the new reality. You would be wise to embrace it now rather than later.

Thanks, Lynn!