A project with quite a few hick-ups recently made me think about where we spend our attention. Another incident where a loyal customer who never complained (or needed to), left the company due to complaining about poor service after being a customer for over ten years and was not given the respect or (attention rather) than it deserved.
As Tony Robbins says, energy flows where attention goes.
This made me think about work and customers and colleagues. Projects where the client made the most noise seemed to receive more attention than the projects which were humming along smoothly.
Colleagues who were “high-maintenance” were receiving more “face-time” because terminations are long and tedious and resolving the “issues” are always the first stage. What about those with their heads down getting things done?
The same could be said for family members (not mine ;)).
So what’s the big deal?
In my experience with clients who demand more time, is that it all begins and ends with me. I’ve let them access more time (eating into other projects) without communicating their impact on other projects. Why? The project manager in me will tell you that one project is not the business of another. The business owner side of me will tell you that the resource management of other projects is none of the client’s concern.
So how do we address these imbalances?
- Goals and task management
- Pausing and communication
With over twenty-five years of professional experience (with most of them in a management role of some kind), I can say for sure that the times where customers have left have not been due to poor service, but lack of engagement. Customers who are not complaining need to be treated like royalty because without them, there is no business.
Quiet customers who silently pay their invoices on time and don’t complain are the real heroes of your business. How do you reward hero customers?
Acknowledgement on social media or your company website, sending a gift card or gift basket on special occasions and checking in often with these clients to see of there is anything you can do for them, are a few ways to celebrate good customer behaviour.
Team members who quietly or engage where and when they need to, and deliver their work without issue should be commended and rewarded. These rewards need not be financial. They can look and feel like public acknowledgement in the form of employee of the month or star of the week or coffee vouchers to Starbucks etc.
Limit bad behaviour.
I used to (and still do) have a philosophy that if a client should start screaming at me, that I would simply say “I can hear that you are upset, I am going to call you back when you are calmer.”
This usually does not instil calm, but when someone is in a “fighting-state” there is no reasoning with them and waiting for the storm to pass is better than having a screaming match.
For those “high-maintenance” customers, consider adding clauses into contracts in terms of “maintenance” and “support” and what constitutes “out-of-scope”. Make this clear, do it upfront.
For “high-maintenance” employees, probation periods are critical, however, if they are not given their deliverables upfront, and managed closely, probation period won’t really help trim the fat. I’ve also found that when new recruits are given solid structure at the beginning of an engagement, they are less likely to become problem “children”.
During this pandemic, hybrid work means more engagement with customers, employees and colleagues. Take your engagements from zero to hero and whip your communications into shape today.
Focus goes where energy flows. Full stop.