When is a window not a window? When it’s a broken window. If you’ve been reading this week’s posts, then you know that I’m talking about Michael Levine’s excellent and incredibly readable Broken Windows, Broken Business: How the Small Remedies Reap the Biggest Rewards. Today, I’m going to get personal though. So if sharp criticism isn’t your thing, well, this might not be the post for you. On the other hand, if you’re intrigued by the notion that employees can also be broken windows (in addition to sloppy reception areas, less than stellar product documentation or any other sign that a company doesn’t take its customers seriously) then read on.
Levine (again, no relation) begins his chapter on employees as broken windows, well, with a big break, a crash. “Of the worse broken windows are people,” he writes unabashedly. Indeed, aren’t people behind every broken window anyway? The problem, he goes on to say, is that employees are the hardest to fix and even when we try to coax someone into improving his or her ways, those efforts often end up being a waste of time, because nothing changes.
Of course as people we make mistakes and when we learn from those mistakes our value quotient goes way up. But when we make the same blunders over and over again, well, something needs to be done. You can invest in the best training around, but if you allow the broken windows to stick around, you’re sending those training dollars, well, into a certain plumbing fixture when that money could be used to train a new employee or one who’s proven him- or herself to be of such value that to ignore this person and not invest would be an even bigger mistake than keeping others, those with less value, on. Anyway, here’s what Levine says about employee training: the system needs to be overhauled and the concepts that need to be stressed are:
1. Customer service
2. Customer service
3. Customer service
4. Employee motivation
5. Advance for excellent performance
6. Punishment for poor performance
7. See 1,2, and 3
Is Levine trying to tell us something? I guess this is what I like best about this book: it is direct and I think we need more of that. No questions here. It is what it is. Levine writes this about customer service: “It separates loyal customers from ex-customers, and it guarantees a steady stream of revue for the life of the business.” He also tells us that customer service has to far exceed the customer’s expectations. Just take a flight somewhere and take note of the customer service you encounter between points A and B. You’re likely to experience quite a range and thus be quite conversant in what you liked about the trip and what was really unacceptable. Of course we have to accept it when we’re en route, but you understand where I’m going.
This book is too good to limit it to one week’s review. I’ll tell you more next week. In the meantime, keep counting the broken windows where you work. I’d like to hear about them.