Thursday, July 31, 2008

Attention To Detail

I recently had a conversation with someone about how attention to detail affects customers. Staff's attention to detail may not be noticed by customers. But you know - that may be the best outcome. That's where I remembered a couple of great attention to detail examples.

Take Walt Disney World (WDW) for example. Most people have been there or Disneyland at least at some point in their lives - or have seen pictures. Think about when you first come into Main Street and walk down the sidewalks. Have you ever noticed the hitching posts? Most everyone I've ever asked say they haven't noticed them. Is that good or bad? In a way, it's good. What would cause you to notice? Knicks, scuffs, chips in paint. The good people at Disney realize just that. That's why the hitching posts are painted EVERY night. They'd rather have you NOT notice them then to notice that they're all scuffed up. That's attention to detail.

Being a Disney fan I have another good example. One of their most extraordinary exhibits is the Hall of Presidents. Anyone who's the LEAST BIT interested in the history of our great country would enjoy it. Anyway, that's where they have life size replica's of all of the U.S. Presidents on a stage where a number of them talk to you. Pretty cool - and perfectly lifelike.

We all know (most of us) that Franklin D. Roosevelt had polio. That meant that he wore braces on his legs. What I bet you don't know is that if you were to lift the pant legs on FDR in the Hall of Presidents that you would find - a complete set of braces on his legs. You can't see them otherwise. It's all about accuracy.

Attention to detail makes the difference.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Employee Orientation

Formal orientation programs should be something that is constantly looked at. Orientation can either make or break a new employee. I've actually known of people who have quit their new job because of orientation. Orientation quite often shows a direct correlation to your organizations overall training system. If orientation is unbearable . . . chances are so are the rest of your training programs.

Organizations normally want to get their new employees up to full productivity as soon as possible. That means cramming all of the new employee material into a reduced amount of time. Bad news. If employees are immediately overwhelmed with information that they probably won't remember anyway, there's no way they'll be able to contribute effectively to the team or be able to give quality customer service. If they're taught right off the bat to get through as fast as possible, then that's the way they'll approach the job from there on in.

If you have a number of things that need to be taught, keep to the basics. Cut out the "nice to know stuff". Give more time and repetition to critical information. The human brain can only hold on to so much new information. Overload it and it shuts down.

Facilitators also hold a very important role for orientation. These are some of the first people that the new employee will meet. Make sure they're enthusiastic, personable, and can project a positive perception about the organization. Without these characteristics bad attitudes could begin right here.

Remember - orientation is another type of welcome to your new employee. Make it count just as you would with a customer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Home Depot - Building Family

A fellow employee (we'll call her Reaper - from the TV show) recently took on a part-time job at The Home Depot (THD). After a few days of hearing her talk to different people about her early experiences I thought, 'hey, this sounds like a place that cares'. So, I had to check it out. From what I found, I wish more companies would take a cue from THDs Values

The number one Value on a list of eight is Taking care of our people. The thing that really intrigued me is that this goes right along with the things that she's been describing. THD doesn't just talk it - they walk it. The description begins by saying, "The key to our success is treating people well." I'll say a million times over - if you treat your employees well, they WILL provide better customer service. Excellent customer service is number five on THDs list of Values. It can be that low because of the focus on their own people. Excellent customer service will come naturally.

The second part of Taking care of our people says, "We do this by encouraging associates to speak up and take risks, by recognizing and rewarding good performance and by leading and developing people so they may grow." I'm getting excited here. Encourage employees to be a part of the company, not just a warm (for most people) body to put on the sales floor. Allow them to develop. Reaper told me about the incentives they get for learning about the different areas of the store. The more areas they learn about, the more they get. In this case it's monetary, but incentives come in an abundant amount of possibilities. Check out Incentives Magazine

Another Value that caught my eye - actually made me go oooooo - is number seven, Entrepreneurial spirit. "The Home Depot associates are encouraged to initiate creative and innovative ways of serving our customers and improving the business and to spread best practices throughout the company." This is the epitome of employee empowerment. THD has specific overall guidelines, I'm sure. But to be able to do your job without the constant fear of being told 'you're wrong, it should have been done this way', employees can be more open and service oriented with customers.

The whole theme here is to make employees part of the company. With that comes happiness, dedication and sincere customer service.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Easy Diversion

A little fun heartfelt recognition for employee's can be so easy and cheap. It can even spark creativity. How many companies have little or no immediate recognition program? Quite a few I'm willing to bet. It doesn't have to be anything extravagant or expensive. You don't need trophies, or gift cards, or big productions. It can be as simple and cheap as a white board and a couple of markers. One of the best types of recognition comes from peers. Put up a white board in an area that's highly traveled (hallway, break room, time clock, etc) and let them have at it. When a co-worker has done something extra or over-the-top on any particular day, peers can jot it down for everyone to see. As a supervisor, you'll see things here that you would never have heard about otherwise.

The white board form of recognition not only recognizes the individual or team, but also serves to motivate others to better themselves and their work so that maybe they'll get the chance to see their name(s) on the board. A caution though - keep an eye on the board to be sure that it doesn't become a bitch n moan board instead.

One thing I will say over and over again when it comes to any type of employee "program", - if you start it, keep it going. It's not enough just to begin it. It WILL die an agonizing death.