Towards the end of a tiring road trip, I found myself pontificating to a banker group about a subject that I hadn’t visited in a while.
I shared with the group that over a few decades of working for and with many different organizations, I’ve noticed that many folks tend to blame their jobs for just about anything that is not “peachy” in their lives at the time.
Many seem really annoyed by that 8 to 10 hour block (okay, often more) of a day that they have to dedicate to “work”.
I told of a recent brief conversation I had with my wife in which I tried to take my own advice. With several deadlines approaching, I was pretty eye-sore and grumpy in my home office late on a weekend evening. That week had been an especially demanding one. Work, travel, and family obligations had left me physically and mentally drained.
When my wife checked on me and expressed sympathy about the “headache task” I had at hand, I thought for a second and laughed, “There are a lot of things giving me headaches this week. Only a few am I actually getting paid for. As far as headaches go, this is one I really shouldn’t gripe about.”
I’m no Pollyanna when it comes to work, and I’d never suggest that folks simply grin and bear situations that are inappropriate or unprofessional.
But most of us can benefit from reminding ourselves now and then that our jobs are not things that get in the way of all of the other wonderful things in our lives.
Our jobs are quite often the things that make much of all of those other wonderful things possible.
Sensing that the group was willing to follow me down that path, I continued, “How many times has each of us complained about having to wake up early and go to work in the morning? Do we ever maybe stop to think how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to wake up early and go do something that somebody is willing to pay us for?”
And, big shock, the thing that we do for the better part of our day that has us interacting with other humans of varying levels of pleasantness and politeness may give us a few headaches today to deal with.
But, lucky us, somebody is paying us for those particular headaches. What a country!
Our jobs should never be the most important things in our lives, but they do allow us to take care of the things that actually are.
Remembering that now and then may help us bring our best to them.
I was recently involved in an interesting conversation with a few banker friends about the changing dynamics of branch teams. One of the more doom-and-gloom folks was pretty convinced that the reduction in headcounts in branches practically ensured that service levels would fall.
He worried that smaller staffs don’t have enough time to give as much attention to customers.
While it wasn’t an apple-to-apple comparison, I joked that I frequently see quite a few TSA agents standing around airport screening lines apparently free to just chat with each other.
Being well-staffed does not seem to be highly correlated with high customer service levels in that case.
I’m not suggesting that it isn’t possible to give customers more one-on-one attention with a larger staff.
However, I would argue that a larger staff, in itself, is no guarantee that customers will feel any more attended to or appreciated.
Some establishments’ busy employees interact with you in a manner that more than compensates for any wait you may have endured to see them. And then there are places with lots of employees standing around to “serve” you whose indifference leaves you feeling like an intrusion to their otherwise lovely day.
The problem with many institutions isn’t so much lack of staff as it is a lack of customer focus.
Through the years, I’ve been struck by how many in-store branches regularly rank towards the top of their entire banks’ customer satisfaction scores.
Many of these branches are some of the busiest branches in their networks. It is unlikely that there are lots of staff on hand to ensure that every customer walking up is instantly served or that a banker can spend lots of time in conversation with them.
(It may happen, but there is no guarantee.)
But the staffs in these locations display a sense of urgency while speaking and conducting themselves in manners that convey a genuine appreciation for a customer’s time and business.
Evolving customer behaviors, technology and improved branch designs are inarguably making smaller branches and smaller branch teams the future of the banking industry. Whether the perceived levels of service in these branches will also be reduced is largely independent of that fact.
What impressions are your teams making today?