on effectiveness (or the lack of it)

For the past seven months, I’ve had a problem with a particular service, and interacted with their customer service people regularly.  All of them have been courteous and respectful.  I appreciate that very much!

In fact, after several calls, I have received an automated phone call to rate the performance of the individual, though there has never been a problem with the actual interaction in terms of the behavior I experienced.

The problem is that the problem never got fixed.

So, would you say that their customer service is effective?  From my point of view, no.  Had the problem been solved, I would not have to call back more than once, maybe twice.

Today as I listened to yet another automated customer service feedback survey, I found myself thinking, “they will never solve their problems this way.”

They are not asking the right questions.

All of that got me thinking about effectiveness overall.  When we measure effectiveness through transactions only, we do ourselves a disservice.  The bottom line is – how well we are doing in fulfilling our mission?  We may see improvements in behavior as in the customer service example, but what if the problem is not in the transaction?  What if it’s in the system?  What if it’s in our assumptions?

In my example, the assumption seems to be that if the customer service person is courteous and takes ownership of your problem, offers an apology and takes some action, then they have done their job.  All of that has taken place, so, I can only assume that they are not looking at callbacks as part of their effectiveness.

 Being effective requires aggressive learning. 

Assuming that addressing direct cause and effect will solve the whole problem is flawed.   Did the people do what we thought they should do?  Yes.  Then, good. They did “their job.”  But really, did they?

Leaders ask additional questions.

  • Why is this lady having to call back every month with the same problem?
  • How is it that their data system rejects their changes every month?
  • What if changes or upgrades they made to their system now prevent customer service agents from actually solving customer problems?

If you’re not looking at questions like that, your learning is not aggressive enough, and your mission will suffer for it.

Good leaders will examine results, both the individual transactions as well as context and patterns.  They will look for causes beyond the immediate actions.  In reflecting on results, we have to ask ourselves some hard questions.

  • Are we fulfilling our mission?  How would we know?
  • What assumptions do we have about fulfilling our mission?  Are they still true?
  • What challenges repeatedly surface?  Are we addressing them?
  • Are we repeating the same mistakes and not learning from them? Why is that?

As leaders, we have stewardship of our mission, people and resources.  Are we paying attention to our effectiveness?  Are we utilizing all we have to full advantage in going after our mission?  If your mission is worth doing, these are questions worth asking.

Servant leaders get to the root cause ... Cheryl Bachelder

What questions do you regularly ask to evaluate effectiveness?

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9 Responses to on effectiveness (or the lack of it)

  1. Steve Morgan says:

    I like your link between effective customer service and learning.

    • thanks, Steve. whether it’s customer service or anything else, observing what’s working and what’s not is a key part of getting better! we have to keep learning in order to be effective.

      • Steve Morgan says:

        Bobby Clinton and others have talked about being life-long learners. What do you believe are some of the factors, qualities, practices of a leader who remains a learner throughout their lifetime?

      • that’s a great question. Well, for one, life long learners are not as attached to their ways as they are to achieving their mission. So they will self-correct, or be willing to jump into something new for the sake of accomplishing greater outcomes. What would you add?

      • Steve Morgan says:

        I think learning begins with humility. If I think I already know it all, well, what else is there to learn? I would add hunger (curiosity) which seems to be related to effectiveness of achieving the mission. Do you think ownership is somehow intertwined in that bundle? Learning about, from and with others is key. Teaching/sharing in the way that Parker Palmer proposes–the interactive/dynamic/circular model rather than the hierarchical expert model is also important. Then Tichy links teaching and leading. Lastly, feedback is important. Of course, feedback then circles back into humility and the cycle continues over.

      • I like the point on humility and I agree. Openness is one way that is expressed; curiosity might be another. I do think ownership or responsibility is a factor. I’ve seen it play out when leaders won’t go the second step to seek out new knowledge; they resort to what they already know. When I look at people who learn as a lifestyle, they continue to pursue being a better person, or practitioner, or leader with abandon. They are not afraid of getting out there and learning new things from anyone or any situation.

      • Steve Morgan says:

        Well said. I like the last line of learning new things from anyone or any situation. Wasn’t it Einstein who said, “I’ve never met a man so ignorant from whom I could not learn something.”

      • love that. thanks, Steve!

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