Are you ready to hear things good and bad about your company, or even yourself? Phrases like ‘open-door policy’; ‘encouraging people to bring their concerns’, ‘our people make us great’ and ‘customers are always right’ are bandied all over but how many of us walk the talk?
How do you demonstrate that you mean what you say? Do you show that you especially want to hear the negative stuff? Well you should. It’s one of the most critical things you can do if you want to become highly successful. You could start by taking the following steps;
Make it a policy, put it in writing
Mission - statement language is so common that nobody pays attention to it anymore, so make sure your bad-news policy stands out. Make it clear that people should feel free to talk with their manager or go around their manager if necessary. If people fear retribution or being punished for stating their concerns to anyone, they should put a typed note in the suggestion box. All in all, allow and encourage use any method to give their feedback rather than stay silent with their concerns.
Actions speak louder than words
What you say is what you should do. Have stomach to bear especially unpleasant news and do not allow any of your staff to do otherwise.
People watch your actions far more than your words. After all over 70% of communication is body language.
Act on customer complaints
A major reason why our customer service sucks is that the guys at the top don’t own it. We relegate the solving of these problems to the lowest level employees. It is myopic and even harmful as policy. Your customers have a unique perspective on you and your competitors. The customer, I do insist, should always be listened to.
Make sure your front line reads all comments and passes the unusual, odd--and especially the troubling ones--to someone with the right answers and the authority to address the customer’s concerns. It is especially annoying when an employee has no answers to customer complaints yet will not refer the customer and will refer them to someone who can.
Insist on news, bad news and all flowing uphill. Perform spot audits to ensure that your system is working. Occasionally send a fake customer comment and see where it ends up (mystery shopping).
Restate and reinforce your message regularly
Ensure that your team is proactive about their business, bad news included. You don’t want people withdrawing into their shells and never again being proactive.
Move on as with speed
“What can we do right away to recover?” This is very important to channel all that negative energy from the disappointment into creative, future-looking actions. The success your of business hinges on your handling of bad news. It is the competitive edge that you have over the competition.
Use your Judgment
Lastly, you know your business best. Everyone else might think that they know better than you what you should be doing better. And sometimes they do! Listen to all but remember success lies in working out who really knows and should be listened to, and who really does not know.
Sometimes it is better to keep your own counsel and to know this you must use your judgment well.
Sam Kebongo is a consults in skills development and teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College.