“There are two kinds of people in the world. People who divide people into two kinds, and people who don’t!
Today I am going to divide people into two kinds—those who are task-focused, and those who are people-focused.
Nearly all businesses need employees to have both attributes. It is when the employee focuses too much on one or the other that causes trouble.
For example, you manage a retail store that needs to have its seasonal displays changed out. You instruct several of your sales staff to do just that. But if they are too task-focused, they’ll ignore walk-in traffic risking the loss of customers. Being ignored by sales staff is one of the biggest gripes customers have.
In many cases the employees have received recognition from their supervisors for being so task-focused. The expectations have been created and communicated about the importance of window displays or of restocking; it is when those tasks are interrupted by customers that the trouble starts. Without realizing it sales people, especially inexperienced sales people, see customers as obstacles, not as THE reason you are in business. They tend to ignore the obstacle (e.g., the customer) in order to complete their task.
Being ignored is what sends customers like me ballistic and why we charge out into the world and onto the Internet/blogosphere to tell everyone how shabbily we’ve been treated.
For many people, ever since they were young, their parents told them to
Focus on what you’re doing. Don’t get sidetracked! Don’t do anything else until you’re done!
But that’s not life in a small retail store; in fact retail life is exactly the opposite. Your employees need to be able to switch back and forth from “task” to “people” as effortlessly as possible.
Just saying the customer comes first is not enough. You must go into greater detail on a regular basis about your expectations of their behavior. You can continually reinforce these expectations through staff meetings, one-on-ones, company newsletters, casual conversations, etc. Then you need to use feedback from customers, other employees, and yourself to see that your expectations are being met.
Yes, the tasks are important; the customer, however, is more important.