The market responsibilities you routinely bear are nothing if not intense, expensive, complex and foreboding. Review this partial list of the more significant elements of market responsibility shared by the vast majority of our readers that your employees may imply are "no problem" to provide the customer:
• maintaining your facility, shop equipment, vehicles and technology;
• ordering materials, arranging delivery, managing cash flow and scheduling workers;
• taking on additional A/R financial risk, maintaining field equipment;
• cutting/risking expensive raw materials, creating inventory with leftover stock;
• hours embedding finished quality into the job, handling "middlemen" in field;
• maintain operational lines of credit to support cash flow needs and opportunistic marketing; and
• prepaying taxes, payroll, suppliers, insurances, leases, training and interest expenses.
I am not suggesting that every employee believes your market responsibilities are free from financial risk or costly troubles. Nor do I believe that your customers, now hearing that phrase, suddenly believe your work is easy and problem-free. However, I do firmly believe there's an unwanted effect of these impressions over time that minimizes your efforts and investment. In fact, it's the exact opposite of the message you want expressed!
"You're Welcome" is the favored reply to a graciously given "thank you" for good reason -- it's a verbal home run. Perhaps because it is such an old phrase most folks don't really know what "you're welcome" actually means when said to someone offering up thanks. It's a term that implies the service being gratefully acknowledged by the customer was your distinct pleasure to perform and that particular person is always welcome to ask another. As you can see, "you're welcome" is an invitation.
If "no problem" is really no problem, what comes next? How much more can business language devolve? Will it one day seem normal to respond to a thank you with "whatever" or "no biggie"? The future might be worse. If we take our language's current direction to its logical conclusion, the top-rated response one day might be "Hey, no sweat off my a**."
Destination: Bulletin Board
There's an element to this column that doesn't fit neatly into the above but is, in a way, far more important than how your employees respond when they are thanked. Try this little experiment: Take a week and quietly place yourself within listening distance of various customer interactions (phones, display area, pick-up counter, etc.). Are you hearing a lot of "no problems," "you're welcomes," or "my pleasures," at the end of their interactions?
If you're hearing this then the world has flipped on its axis. Imagine that . . . a customer thanks an employee at the end of placing a large order and the employee doesn't turn it around and instead profusely thank the customer? Please imagine the sound of an extremely loud buzzer going off in your head - the kind of buzzing warning alarm that would make the long, lazy ears of the sleepiest hound dog fly up in the air, flapping and fluttering. That noise is the rarely heard "something's wrong in America" buzzer.
As a society, we have become so grateful and, sadly, so relieved when a transaction we attempt goes smoothly in our favor. We seem to have forgotten that we chose a particular company and blessed them with our patronage and shrinking pay. Instead of hearing the company's heartfelt gratitude at the transaction's end, we blurt out our thanks to them simply for accomplishing the task they promised to accomplish. It's the Great American Gratitude Shift in action. Why? Because organizational excellence and the keeping of service promises are rarer than they should be. We've come to equate mere competence for perfection.
We can reverse this with one great training session. Teach your employees about the Thank You/You're Welcome cycle -- make sure they know who is to do the thanking in your operation. Show them when and how to properly thank a customer -- give them an informal version of gratitude as well as a high-society version to act as their big gun. Teach them how a polite and gracious thank you, with the right people and at the right moment, can make quite a difference in your bond with the customer. Because of the bad apples that invariably dog the construction industry, the fact is there's a higher bar to jump over. Consider telling your people how a "no problem" response might not provide the lift in courtesy we need to clear the bar.
About the author:
Chris Traynor, Surface Fabrication magazine's senior business columnist, is the director and knowledge scout for Whip-Smart Management Consulting LLC, Wayne, N.J. (www.whip-smart.com), as well as a board-certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR). Traynor has 25 years of experience in the solid surface industry as a consultant to fabricators, distributors, manufacturers and associated firms. He can be reached at email@example.com.