Stop…….take a look around…….is what you’re doing crazy?

Today I looked at my sad, crumpled, paper poppy and, as I took it off my coat, I accidentally pricked myself with the pin and threw both in the bin.

What’s it all about? I love the good old paper poppy for nostalgic reasons – standing in the cold and rain in the school playground, while my friend fainted in front of me from standing too long! But really, there must be…..there are…..better poppy options!  So why do the poppy people keep making paper ones that get damaged within about 2 minutes and which are not only ‘lethal’ (possible dramatic licence there!) but are also a waste of metal – how many pins get made and thrown away every year?  Crazy!

It got me thinking about a few other things I’ve been collecting in my head recently – daft things that if we stopped and thought about them we’d think – that’s crazy!

Yellow pages for example, and the BT Phone Book for that matter. I dutifully keep mine each year when I get the new one, sending the old one to the recycling. Friends of mine I know just chuck the new one straight in the recycling and don’t even keep one in the house. Although I may be able to feel smug about my ability to tell other people a phone number if there’s an apocalypse, and no wifi or 3G, I’m not sure we need these anymore. So why is all this paper being wasted? And why are these organisations paying people to trudge the streets and deliver them by hand to people who don’t want or need them?  Crazy!

Another one I came across the other day was a trailer for the BBC show, The Call Centre.  One of the supervisors was saying that he needs to keep things fun for his team because of the drudgery and demotivating experience of being told ‘no’ or being hung up on, repeatedly, every.….single……day. I’ve not watched the show, and no doubt the TV folk chose an especially wacky call centre team to follow, and of course it creates employment for the people who work there which is great, but even so I wonder how many call centres there are around the country where it is actually just drudgery without the fun.  This scattergun approach to winning business is so out-dated – not just because of its random approach of who to call but also because when they do get to speak to a human being they’re using a ‘selling model’ more suited to the 1970′s.

As Dan Pink told us at #CIPD13, customers are more savvy now, we have more knowledge, we aren’t the polite Brits we used to be and we will just hang up on cold callers.  There’s a new way!  One where you as the seller have an intuitive human conversation with me as your customer, you listen to me and understand my needs, you consider what I’m thinking, you help me with the key information to focus on, you talk about my options, you give me the space to choose and you behave like an adult if I don’t choose to buy today – the opposite of that by the way is the childish petulant response of someone who just lost a commission payment…..don’t even get me started on that one!!

So next time you’re doing something for your customers just stop…….take a look around…….is what you’re doing crazy?

3 thoughts on “Stop…….take a look around…….is what you’re doing crazy?

  1. Hi Helen – it’s a great question to ask ourselves on a regular basis. People and businesses often drift into doing dumb things. I too throw the phone directories and I wonder if they shouldn’t perhaps be paid for by the customer now? Even a small fee might help people think about the value rather than looping straight to recycling.

    I have another dumb thing to add to the pile.

    I want to make a change to my mortgage arrangements. I call Natwest to book a new deal over the phone. I can’t – I have to wait over a week for a callback appointment because no one is available. I don’t want investment advice, and I know the deal I want. If by the time the Natwest calls me back that deal has expired, that is my tough luck. A few weeks ago I could have made the arrangement on the spot – since then there’s been a ‘policy change’. ‘Natwest Helpful Banking’ says the strap line. Sorry but I ain’t feeling it.

    So what does this have to do with HR? Plenty – I think. For me, HR should be the thread that joins employee and customer – and it should join these things together in such a way as to give the employee meaningful empowerment, and good service to the customer. To me – that is part of what excellent HR is all about. Going beyond policy, to empowerment and great service. I think Buzz Lightyear said something similar once.

    Great post Helen – thanks.


    • Definitely Doug! And I love your example – well, obviously not the fact that it’s such dreadful service!

      I care passionately about how people ‘serve’ each other internally and externally and absolutely agree that this is about HR – it’s about culture, it’s about performance management, it’s about reward, it’s about leadership……I could go on!

  2. It’s good to question what has become far too routine, this is how change and innovation are born. There are now large communication distances in society between the beginning and the end (like with the yellow pages example, do the manufacturers know exactly what people are doing with the book to be able to stop and say “hey, hang on a minute!”.). A nice read.

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