Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Customer Next Door

Our focus is often on the external customer ... the person across the counter or on the other end of the phone. We cater to them and rightly so, but we also need to cater to the customer next door, the one on the other side of the cubicle.

While your interaction with a customer might be short and could possibly be a one-time occurrence, your interactions with your co-workers are on-going. Thus creating pleasant working environment with these 'customers' is critical. It is critical to your day-to-day level of job satisfaction and it is critical to the all-important external customer.

We spend more time with co-workers than family, so even if work can't be a walk in the park, it shouldn't be a walk in a dark alley either. Work should be a pleasant, even if it's not a stress-free environment. You don't have to be best friends with your co-workers but you should have a basic level of respect and courtesy. You should be able to work together.

Working with co-workers in a productive manner benefits the customer as well. You can work together to cross-train, solve difficult problems and just generally be of assistance.

Here are some suggestions on improving your relationship with co-workers

Separate Work and Home: While you are at work, focus on work, especially with co-workers. Keep the conversation light - movies TV, sports and don't be to quick to share personal details.

Don't Gossip and Complain: Gossiping about co-workers is a big no-no, as is complaining about them. After all, the person you are gossiping with will automatically question your integrity. After all, if you would talk to them about a co-worker, what's stopping you from talking to another co-worker about them? Nothing erodes trust faster than gossip and complaining.

Be of Service: Be available to help co-workers whenever you can. Do it because you want to and not because you are keeping score. A team is a team, you have your co-workers back and they have yours.

Operate with Integrity: This encompasses everything that came before it and then some. When you operate with integrity, you will naturally refrain from gossip and be eager to help. You will also be honest and dependable - doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. It also means taking your job seriously. When you are at work, you are at work. You arrive on time and leave on time. You don't take long breaks. Whether you realize it or not, people are walking you and your actions say more than your words ever will.

If you are a manager, there are some things you can do to improve internal customer service.

Be a True Morale Booster: If you want to show your employees you value them, then show them you value them. Jeans Days and donuts on Friday are short-term, shallow morale boosters. Look for other, more substantive ways to boost morale. Acknowledge jobs well-done. Share the credit. If you are going to give incentives, then ask your staff what incentives they'd like.

Coach Don't Solve: Work with your employees on how to improve performance and overcome challenges. Do less telling and work with them to come up with their own solutions. Give them some autonomy and some leeway.

Operate with Integrity: As a manager, this is critical. Managers set the standard. If you aren't trustworthy, your staff won't be either. You can't expect them to be prompt or stay late, if you consistently come in late and leave early. If you gossip, so will they. How will they take you seriously about teamwork, if they overhear you complaining about your team members. If co-workers are watching each other, they are definitely watching and taking cues from their managers.As Gandhi once said, "Be the change you want to see."