Small Gestures of Trust Build Great Results

I was attending a breakout session on social media strategy at the International Customer Service Association conference, when the presenter asked, “who allows their reps to have Facebook on their work computers?” This is not the norm in the call center space, but one guy raised his hand. I knew immediately whose table I wanted to sit at for lunch. Where there’s one gesture of trust, there’s generally others and I wanted to learn everything he had to share.

Lunch was great, the conversation even better and just as I suspected Klaus Buellesbach, Director of Ace Hardware Care Centers, has an amazing track record of results.

His quality results and other metrics are quite strong, and despite substantial organizational change, his center has had no turnover for two years (with the exception of one retirement). Trust leads to engagement which leads to low-turnover, which builds competence and confidence, which creates great customer experiences, which inspires customer loyalty. Amen.

Here’s his secret for building trust

Build from Within

“When I get into a new situation, I build a high-performance team with the people that are there. I never bring people from the last job along. I look for the gifts the current team has and build on it in a unique way. What this creates is big trust and some very different teams. You could never put all the teams I have led side by side and say, of course, ”this is the team that Klaus built.”

It’s not his fingerprints on the team or is it? It’s his unleashing of the talent he discovers to create a unique masterpiece. My guess, if you put these teams “side by side” they would really enjoy that conversation.

Get Everyone Involved in the Big Picture

He asks big questions to create larger context for the work. He has trust in the team to inspire the vision.

“Besides running a contact center, what is it that we really need to accomplish this year?

“What does a care center really stand for?”

When the employee surveys come back, he empowers a team to discuss them over a 7 week period, so there is time to go deep. ”We can’t implement all of their suggestions, but we usually can do most of them.” That matters.

Be Humble

Klaus is a great example of confident humility. It’s all about the people and how he can involve and support them.

“I want to know before I speak; and understand before I act. I ensure I understand the whole situation first.”

Know Your People

Start every day on the floor really talking to people about things that matter to them. People need to know you care about them and their interests. This is where the Facebook thing came in.

“We have a number of parents in our center. We found that the school systems are starting to communicate through websites as well as via phone. Parents want to be able to check in. Most phones have data plans so pulling up Facebook is part of the routine. We support corporate social media inquiries in our center. It is a small step from there to allowing our team to keep up with their personal lives. As long as their quality and productivity metrics are good, we treat them as adults and let them take care of their lives.”

Look Beyond the Numbers

To build a world-class customer service organization you have to focus on the intangibles. There are lots of ways to measure customer loyalty none of which are perfect. He focuses on ensuring every customer is completely satisfied every time, and doesn’t get overly excited about small changes to the numbers. In the long run great service wins and the numbers work out.

Saturday Salutation: Postcard from the United Nations Youth Assembly

This quote set the tone for the 11th Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations sponsored by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, which I attended this week. The focus was on youth empowerment, and how social networking can be used to create change.

“This is a guest post from my son Ben Evans, 17. Ben is a youth envoy to the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Organization, and recently served as a delegate to the National Youth Assembly at the United Nations. He holds a variety of leadership roles at school and church, and enjoys music and drama.”
“Youth are problem solvers, not problems to be solved.”
~Jasmine Nahhas di Flori

All of the panel speakers are fantastic leaders with truly amazing stories. Some were ambassadors from countries like Romania and Kenya. I also met Jacuqes Cousteau’s grandson and teens my age who have made big changes by starting something small. For example, Talia Leman began a trick or treating campaign when she was 10 years old, and has now raised over 10 million dollars for relief efforts around the world.

Each attendee was given a rubber bracelet with a personal QR code on it. When the code was scanned, all of my social networking information was immediately transmitted to my new friends and connections. Empowering simple networking with peers around the world.

I strongly encourage you to check out the following organizations which impressed me throughout the conference.

Education for Employment Foundation: (provides cellphones to connect Middle East youth with jobs)

Pavegen (harnesses the power of footsteps to create green energy)

Two Degrees (college campus-based programs selling energy bars to provide a 1:1 donation of food kits in third world countries)

Liter of Light (creates light in poor countries using only soda bottles, tin, and water)

“Being a leader of tomorrow does not exclude you from starting today.”
~Unknown