Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Preflight a New Employee!

The Air Force is big on training.  No matter what the job or task, receiving a lot of training before one was allowed to "solo" was big deal.    In the Air Force, we always did a lot of training before we allowed anyone to “solo” on their own.  Here is how to do it in business when addressing customer service challenges: 

1.        Insure that all new employees are trained thoroughly before they are allowed to “solo” by themselves.

2.      This “pre flight” process may take a couple of weeks of hard, determined training, requiring that the employee know and understand the products that they are selling, what the features and benefits are and why there are various price points.

3.      Continuously review employee performance.  New employees want to do a good job—make sure that they know what they are doing before allowing them to “solo.”

4.      Many major restaurant chains require that new servers serve as a “wingman” with an experienced server for 2 weeks before they are allowed to “solo” and work by themselves.  You may wish to do the same.


If you want more ideas, let’s have a conversation—call 817-386-3032.

How NOT To Handle An Unhappy Customer!

The customer ordered a pre fabricated metal shed to be erected to cover his boat.  The metal  came from an East Coast fabrication facility, was of high quality, powder coated and designed to withstand harsh atmospheric conditions. 

A date was agreed to for the product to arrive and the construction team to erect the building.  The day before the crew was to begin, the customer received a call and told him that the truck had broke down, it would be another 2 weeks before the product would be delivered.  Was that OK?  Well, the customer said YES, he would wait another 2 weeks for the material to arrive and the crew to build the shed.

Two more weeks transpired, again another phone call, this time, the computer had crashed and the order would have to be resubmitted, meaning another 4 week wait.  At this point, the customer pointed out that he would take his business elsewhere and find another vendor.                  

When the customer told us this story, our first thought was to find some middle ground, perhaps if the company would reduce the bill, i.e., “meet the customer half way”, the problem could be assuaged.  Yes, the customer suggested that, however, the best that the company representative was willing to do was reduce the bill $100, on an order worth several hundred dollars—almost the cost of 3 months of mortgage payments.


It is always easier to retain a customer than find a new customer!  In fact, it takes 10X the effort to find a new customer than retain an old customer.  Think about that the next time a snag occurs with a customer.  There is always some middle ground that can be worked out--- most folks are willing to work for middle ground and find a “win-win” situation.

Don’t Fear the Phone!

A business owner confided in us the other day that all of his new employees who are millennials are deathly afraid of the telephone.  This generation has grown up with portable electronic devices from smart phones that they use for texting more than talking to tablets and computers.  Millennials are very comfortable with both texting and email. But, human interaction strikes fear in them.  In fact, this business owner said that one new employee told him that texting and email were second nature. But, talking to someone on the phone was not comfortable at all.

This disconnect is dangerous. In business, the telephone is a vital tool to establish, cultivate and maintain relationships of all kinds. Friendships and business relationships are enriched through use of the human voice for telephonic conversation.  While texting and email certainly communicate an intended message, actually hearing the voice of a live, warm human being holds far more information:  you a lot about the quality of the relationship by using the sense of hearing to gauge emotion and intent.

Email and text messages are unable to convey emotion effectively. Both positive and negative feelings are simply harder to convey in writing.  Tonality in voice, timbre, dynamics and other aspects of the human voice add emphasis to key points. Dialect and intonation add information.  The phone (via Skype if you want to keep it digital) is a great way to insure that your point is understood.

So what do you do when you have an employee who is afraid to use the phone?  Banish the fear. Teach!  Demonstrate!  Require that they give it a try! Though not hard to do, taking on a leadership role for Telephone 101 does take some strategy.  Some tips:

  • Have the new employee call someone who knows that the call is coming and is aware of the subject of the call.  We had a business owner the other day direct his employee to call a client and begin a conversation on firearms.  The business owner knew that the client had a large firearm collection, the new employee had several weapons of his own and a mutual discussion would be interesting and beneficial.  Interestingly, the relationship that the new employee established with the client turned out to be mutually beneficial, too.  The owner is grooming his new staffer for succession planning, and the client will work with this new employee for many years after the business owner elects to transition to retired status.
  • Put the new employee in charge of answering the phone.  This is another skill that requires some training.  With many new millennial age employees averse to having a live conversation with a stranger, business owners must teach that the phone is how you begin new business development. When customers call to ask about a product or service or wish to know about a price or service availability, being able to welcome the call and interact comfortably is critical.
  • Have a guest speaker at your staff meeting, a professional whose business relies on phone techniques.  Suggestions might be a residential realtor, an insurance sales person or a call center manager.

If you have employees who are fear the phone, sensitize them!  Teach them how to use the telephone.  There is nothing mystical about it, but they have to be carefully taught. Now is the time to begin.