During the last 60 days, I have had the ability to see two different companies and their training programs up close and personal. Both companies provide call center employees, and currently, both companies are employing a home shored or remote agent to conduct call center operations. Neither company is handling remote agents very well; and, while both companies have excellent credentials for providing exterior customers with excellent customer service, both companies fail the first customer, the employee.
Company A thinks that games, contests, prizes, swag, and commissions adequately cover their inherent lack of customer service to employees. Company B does not offer its employees any type of added compensation to its employees and treats their employees like cattle in a slaughterhouse yard. Both companies talk an excellent game regarding treating their employees in a manner that promotes healthy exterior customer relations, but there is no substance, no action, no commitment to the employee. Company B has an exceedingly high employee churn rate, and discounts that rate because of employees working from home and not being able to take the loneliness of an office atmosphere. Company A has several large sites and is looking forward to having employees back on the call center campus.
When the conclusions for employee dissatisfaction were shared, the question was raised, “How does the leadership team know when the employees are not feeling served by their employer?” The answer can be found in the same manner that the voice of the customer is found, mainly by asking the employees. Neither company has an employee feedback process to capture the employee’s thoughts, ideas, feelings, and suggestions; relying solely upon the leadership team to provide these items. Neither company overtly treats its employees poorly, Company A does have a mechanism to capture why employees leave the organization. Company A was asked what they do with this information and refused to disclose, which is an acceptable answer.
Consider an example from Company A, a new hire has been in the hiring process since January, was informed they were hired around the first of April but was also told the next start date/new hire training class has not been scheduled due to COVID-19. The employee is finally scheduled for a new hire class starting the first week of June. Between the time of being hired and the start date, the employee begins taking classes Mon thru Fri, 1800-2100 (6:00pm to 9:pm). The employee is scheduled to begin work at 1030 in the morning and work until 1900 (7:00pm). The new hire asks for help with the schedule, the classes being taken will improve the employee’s skills upon graduation on the first of August. Training is six weeks long, but the overlap is only 9 working days. Company A’s response, either drop the classes or quit the job.
Thus, the attitude towards employee customer service is exposed to sunshine, and regardless of the games, prizes, food, swag, commissions, etc., the employee-customer service fails to keep highly talented employees. This example is not new, and is not a one-off, unfortunately. The example is regular business for employee treatment, and as the trainer stated, there are always more people for positions than positions open, so why should we change operations? Since January Company A has been working unlimited overtime to fill the gap in open positions.
Company B informed all new hires that training is four-days long, and upon completion on the job training commences. On day 3, training is extended to five days, on day 4 training is extended, and on Saturday, training is extended to a mandatory Sunday. No excuses, no time off, no notice, and no reasonable accommodation is provided to make other accommodations for children, medical appointments, etc., and by the time Sunday arrives, the new hire class has already logged 60-hours in a week that began on Tuesday. Several employees are unable to make Sunday and as such are now kicked out of training, and will lose their jobs once HR gets around to giving them the ax.
Neither employer offers reasonable accommodation to employees working from home, as working from home is an accommodation already. Marking the first area of risk; if an employee works for your organization, regardless of the attitude of employee treatment, reasonable accommodation is the law in America, and similar laws are on the books across the world. Yet, both companies were able to eschew the law and deny reasonable accommodation. Company B did it by never responding to the employees after they missed a day of work during training. Company A did it by forcing the employee to decide without the aid of HR, claiming HR does not have any power in the decisions of training.
Now, many people will advise the employees hindered in their job search that the company does not serve them. That fit into a new organization is more important than money. That if an employer does not serve their employees, that employer has no value and the ex-employee is better off. Yet, the companies hired these people, went to great expense to onboard these people, and now must spend more money to hire more people to fill the gap. Both companies will have to pay overtime and other incentives to get the newest new hires through training. All because of the disconnect between serving internal customers and external customers. Many business writers have said, the only customer business has, are the employees.
Myron Tribus used a water spigot to help explain the choices of business leaders where employees are concerned. A business is either a money spigot and customers, employees, vendors, stakeholders, do not matter, so long as the money keeps rolling in to pay off the shareholders. Or business is a spigot with a hose on it to direct the efforts of the business through the relationships with employees, customers, vendors, stakeholders, and shareholders, to a productive and community-building long-term goal of improvement. Either a business is a money spigot or a community building operation, the business cannot do both.
With this analogy in mind, the following four suggestions are provided for businesses that either want to change spigots or need help building the only customer relationship with value.
- Decide what type of business you want to be, and then act accordingly. No judgment about the decision is being made. Just remember, the greatest sin a business can commit is to fail to show a profit. Employee costs can make and break employers and profits.
- Provide a feedback loop. Employees are a business’s greatest asset, the greatest source for new products, new procedures, new methods of performing the work, and new modes of operation, and until the leadership team decides the employees have value, the business cannot change to meet market demands. In fact, that business that does not value employees, cannot change at all, ever!
- Be “Tank Man.” As a child, I remember watching the Tiananmen Square incident unfold in China. I remember watching a man, stand in front of a tank and bring that tank, and several more behind it, to a standstill. Nobody knows this man’s name, but many remember his stand. Be the example of world-changing customer service, even if no one will ever know your name.
- Many parents have told their children, “Actions speak louder than words.” At no other time has these words been truer. Act; do not talk! Show your employees’ customer service and they will conquer the world for you. Actions to take might not mean expending any money. Showing someone you care is as simple as listening, and then helping. LinkedIn daily has examples of hero employees who do more, serve better, and act all because their leader acted on the employee’s behalf.
- Consider Company A for a moment, the time of class overlap was 1-hour. The number of days the overlap was going to affect that employee, 9. Thus, for the cost of nine hours at $17.00 per hour, or $153.00 USD total, an employee was lost. How much blue and green money was lost getting that employee hired, just to see that employee leave within two days of starting? How much more blue and green money will be lost to replace that lost employee?
No longer can employer hope to treat employees poorly and still achieve financial success, between social media and modern communication, the word gets out that an employer does not care about their employees. No longer can labor unions abuse non-union members autonomously. No longer can a business walk away from social and community abuses with impunity. The choice to treat people as valuable assets is an easy choice to make, choose wisely!
© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.
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