May 13, 2016

Joseph Grenny, author and co-founder of VitalSmarts, an organization committed to teaching others how to effectively change human behavior, said candor can help your organization earn $50,000 or more per employee – what?! That may seem surprising, but I see his point and think there is value to this claim. The fact is, when it comes to customer service, silence is not golden, it’s disastrous. On the other hand, speaking up about bad service prevents revenue loss by protecting customer relationships.

Grenny believes that while the initial problem occurs with the first instance of poor customer service, the true issue lies with any colleagues standing by who don’t step in to correct it.

The real barrier to improvement is often not the poor service but the pervasive silence.

A recent study conducted by Grenny and his team shows that each employee who sits by silently after witnessing bad customer service costs their company an average of $54,511 per year. His study also showed that if you create a culture of candor, you can regain the loss and more.  He notes:

  • A typical employee witnesses 19 poor customer-service incidents per year.
  • Only 7 percent of employees can be counted on to speak up when they witness an incident of poor customer service.
  • And yet 66 percent of employees say they are capable of helping solve the customer’s problem.

That paints a bleak picture, yet there is hope. Grenny suggests candor, and I agree. We must cultivate a culture that values direct, open and honest dialogue – especially when there’s conflict or challenge. Specifically, some of Grenny’s tips to help employees respectfully and effectively speak up include:

  • Speak to the colleague in person and privately.
  • Assume the best of others. Begin the conversation as a curious friend.
  • Start with facts. Not only are conclusions possibly wrong, but they also create defensiveness.
  • Ask for others’ views or if they saw the issue differently.
  • Use equal treatment. This applies to everyone, regardless of title or position.

Candor is the path to improving customer service, fixing problems in the immediate moment, correcting larger concerns down the road, earning and retaining customers – and ultimately protecting and growing revenue.