How Your Staff Influences Your Reputation and What to Do About It

Recently my mother had the pleasure of being a NHS customer twice in the space of 4 weeks at different hospitals for different operations. Both hospitals had similar targets to meet.

The care received at the first hospital was excellent. The staff was diligent and conscientious, responding politely and respectfully to patients and their visitors alike. The notice board proudly displayed how they were good at meeting their targets. The second hospital has its charter displayed outside across all three stories of the main building claiming their patient care was their No. 1 priority, yet my mother was left traumatised by the whole experience of being in their care. Interestingly, their notice board indicated they were not meeting their targets.

I am convinced that if all of the staff at the second hospital were respectful towards their patients as claimed by their charter and followed the basic rules of listening, engaging and responding to patients, they would have seen greater improvement in their performance and efficiency as well as being closer to meeting their targets. I did wonder whether the staff responded to patients in the same way they themselves were treated by their managers, and there was a bigger work-based environmental culture problem that needed to be addressed stemming from communication breakdown between staff and management; Quite a common observation.

This isn’t a dig at the NHS, but a gentle reminder of how organisations’ reputations are built on the customers experience and, more importantly how management needs to ensure they engage with their staff at all levels to run a business efficiently.

Whether in private or public sector, businesses cannot be run without some customer interface, and everyone has a role to play in customer service. However, where a client has a choice, they will walk away if dissatisfied with a service and will certainly not make recommendations or come back for more bad service. The good news is, these situations can easily be avoided.

Successful companies recognise how significantly staff can influence the company’s reputation as perceived by clients and therefore already seriously invest in appropriate training and development of their staff to ensure company values are up held. Successful companies apply the same strategy of genuinely listening, engaging and responding to staff needs as they do with their clients.

Staff committed to the business will endeavour to leave a good impression, not because they are instructed to, but because they feel valued and have a purpose of their own in working for the company; they understand how their contribution makes a difference. They are able to distinguish between tangible and intangible targets as well as other important factors that impact on the company’s reputation, so when it comes to customer service they will endeavour to do the best they can because it all influences the company’s reputation, performance, and of course the all important bottom line.

Good customer service requires staff to:

  1. Listen to customers – before doing anything else to understand the customer’s view of the world, why they hold these views, listening to what they want, what are they really trying to find a solution for.
  2. Engage in dialogue – to manage expectations and to ensure both the company and the customer are using the same terms of reference. It is important everyone understands and agrees what will be delivered, when and how, regardless of it being a service or product.
  3. Seek feedback to continually improve customer experience and enhance the company’s reputation as well as improve performance.

Likewise, good managers will:

  1. Listen to their staff – before doing anything else to understand concerns and issues.
  2. Engage in dialogue – to manage expectations and targets, ensure everyone understands their contribution and impact on the bigger picture and most importantly agree priorities.
  3. Seek feedback to continually improve and enhance the company’s reputation as well as improve performance.

At the end of the day, you cannot run a business without interfacing with customers, so if you do not get your customer interface right, you will soon not have a business. To get customer interface right, you need to ensure your staff understand their role, priorities and what is expected from them.

Why your Boss is Programmed to be a Dictator

This is a brilliant book, which applies Systems Thinking to boss behaviour, written by Chetan Dhruve.

I found this book an excellent read explaining how bosses do not set out to be dictators. The author is certainly not analysing bosses’ behaviours, instead he explores how the systems in place influence bosses to behave in the way they do. I challenge you not to find any similarities with at least one of the case studies in this book with what you have experienced in your workplace.

Two particular studies that grabbed my attention were the Stanford Prison Experiment (I am not going to spoil a good read) and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

The details of the Challenger disaster is well documented and relates to the “O ring” failing to seal a gap at very low temperature, thus allowing hot gases to escape. This was the technical reason, but there was a people reason as well, which is explained eloquently in this book detailing what happened to all the parties involved. Everyone involved had a story, and everyone’s story was the truth. The root cause of the problem is traced back to the engineer’s advice not supporting the instructions imposed on the directors from above. If the engineer’s advice was taken then the management would fail to meet their targets and heads would roll big time. (If they had taken the engineer’s advice, maybe the disaster would have been avoided!)

I have seen similar situations arise many times in many organisations where in response to a problem the solution appears too difficult to implement, only because the solution does not alleviate other pressures influencing the project. The real problem is that everyone is trying to resolve the problem from a different perspective; everyone has a different priority ranking on the key project success indicators influenced by their own fear of the potential consequences. The fear of the potential consequences is very real, and amongst other things it can be the cause of stress in the workplace, exacerbated by the breakdown in communication and understanding of the perspective of all parties involved.

So a message to all you would-be bosses out there, don’t be dictated by a system, look at your own behaviours and the consequence it is having on the work environment of your staff.

You can start by seeking feedback from those you do not report to directly or indirectly. Secondly, encourage your staff to evaluate your performance. Thirdly, look in the mirror and ask yourself what you would really like to change in the way you respond to pressures in the work place.

All feedback should be received as a gift. Welcome it, reflect upon it, and positively act upon it.



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