Crafting your work force.

Author:Tropper, Elisha
Position:Minding My Own Business

You've probably seen the safety video they show on airplanes prior to takeoff. You've probably seen it dozens of times. But have you actually ever paid attention to it? In the absurdity that is much of the travel industry, this video may very well be the most ridiculous element. No, I am not referring to the detailed, informational walk-through on how to use a seat belt ("insert the metal clasp until it clicks"). I am referring to the point in the video where the deployment of oxygen masks is explained. The on-screen action reveals the yellow masks dropping to combat cabin depressurization, and all of the passengers calmly reach for their masks, donning them perfectly, and sitting passively. Now think about this for a moment. You're 38,000 feet somewhere above Missouri and something has happened to cause the cabin of your airplane to lose pressure. What could that something be? A bullet through a window? The door or some other section of the plane somehow detaching or flying off mid-flight? An explosion? Under any of these circumstances, the producers of the video would have you believe that your expected reaction would be to calmly handle an oxygen mask as you quietly contemplate your impending demise.

This is a twist on the sort of fantastic reality that I think certain customer service representatives view in their uniquely wistful distortion of their role within a business. We have all come across many CSRs in our life--whether working in our own companies, or for companies from whom we either personally or professionally purchase. Those CSRs who stand out from the rest typically fall into one of two categories: the really good and the really bad.

The really bad CSRs take great umbrage at having to deal with complaining customers or difficult situations. In effect, they are like the airplane video--failing to understand the fundamentals of the situation. All they want to do is answer yes or no, take an order, track a shipment, or do any relatively thoughtless task that requires little thought. Heaven forbid that they might be asked to provide actual service to their customer. Faced with a disappointed or irate customer, they respond in anything but a courteous fashion, acting as if the customer has just ruined their day. In such an encounter, no matter the outcome, the CSR who responds in this manner has failed to accomplish the primary objective of his or her position.

The ideal employee

Of course, the really good CSRs understand what...

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