Who is First?

I went to the bank to get something out of our safe deposit box. The bank is “friendly,” meaning there are no queues so you can stand in line for the right person. (#Fail #1)

I first stood in line for a teller because both of the manager-type people were busy. The teller told me I would have to wait for a manager-type person. I had now spent 10 minutes waiting.

The manager-type people were seated at either end of the bank lobby. I poked my head into the first one and mouthed “I’m waiting for you.” I did the same with the other one. I sat down. (#Fail #2)

10 minutes later, a young man with a bank badge came into the bank. He milled around near where I was.

The first manager-type person’s customer left. He jumped into that office. I had enough.

I walked into the manager-type’s office and said, “I was here first.”

The manager-type looked astounded and said, “He’s an employee.”

I said, “I’m a customer. Don’t I come first?”

By this time, the other manager-type came over and asked what I needed. I explained, and in less than 10 minutes, I was done.

I explained my interaction with the other manager-type, and said, “I would be happy to provide her feedback, that when a non-local employee comes in, customers should come first, or they need an explanation.”

She said, “She’s the branch manager.” (#Fail #3)

Who is most important to you? I’ve seen this when I visit my doctors. A doc (or someone medical) enters as the administrator tries to check me in, and interrupts the admin. The doc asked if the admin had seen another doc that morning. I said, “I’m a human, and I am here to check in. Your question can wait.” The admin was astonished and the system had already logged her off. (#AnotherFail) It took another 10 minutes to check me in.

Hierarchy doesn’t impress me. Does it impress you?

Inside the organization, employees have to come first. The represent the face of the company. And, what about when the employees see customers when your business is customer-facing? Who comes first then?

Consider this for yourself. We had to make decisions as parents as our children grew. When did we pay attention to them first and when did we pay attention to our guests first? There is no one right answer for children. I often gathered them in for a hug and said, “I need to answer so-and-so first and then I can talk to you.” Yes, that was an interruption for me before they knew better.

In business, if you treat your employees right by creating a great environment, you can reap significant results. When you interact with customers all the time, you can use transparency. If the manager-type had said, “I have a situation and I need his guidance,” I would have had a different reaction. But to be told, “He’s an employee”? Fuggedaboutit.

When do you make these decisions? How do you make these decisions? Who is most important to you when? There is no One Right Answer. However you answer, someone has to come second.

That is the question this week: Who is first? I look forward to your answers.

2 thoughts on “Who is First?

  1. Hank Chiuppi

    I would say the customer. Poor customer service runs rampant in our country and I don’t no why. I think it starts at the top of the organization and trickles down. Is it not important to them? I would switch banks.

    1. johanna Post author

      Hank, I have suspicions about why customer service is so poor. Too often, managers measure surrogate data, data that might have an effect on service, but is an indirect measure. I see this in my work. When you reward orders booked, not orders shipped, salespeople sell whatever they want. When you measure how fast you service a customer and not whether the customer felt valued and accomplished their work, you create a culture where people get off the phone as quickly as possible.

      I don’t know how the company measures this manager. I am sure it is not about how happy people are to deal with her. That’s a shame.

      Single-dimension measurement (not looking at the problem holistically) and single-point measurement (not looking at trends) are a problem in too many organizations. That is a cause of bad products and poor service. Gee, I feel another blog post coming on!

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