As it appeared in the Daily Nation on November 15th 2016
I visited a doctor last week. As I sat in his office, I knew that I had a responsibility of telling him how I was feeling. When patients sit in the doctor’s office, the question – “How are You Doing?” is not just a greeting with a short response such as “bad” or “not good”. Doctors use questioning techniques extensively. They seek to know more about the patient. The patient’s medical history is important and so is their current condition. This helps in identifying the problem and the ideal treatment. In addition, doctors look at the body’s vital signs such as temperature, heart rate, blood pressure etc. the doctor may also send the patient to the laboratory, x-ray etc. for further examinations. Depending on the diagnosis and severity of the condition, the patient may be treated in the outpatient or one may be admitted for more observation or critical care.
As I was reflecting on the patient situation, I thought about organizations. Sometimes our organizations are sick. The main question though is, “are we aware of what our organizations are suffering from?” Are we often ready for a diagnosis? I have worked at and with different organization and have noticed three things. First, that organizations suffer from an ally of conditions, second that many organizations shy away from a full examination that may unearth an undesirable condition concentrating only on symptoms and third that poor customer service is just but a symptom. It is only through a thorough examination that an organization may know what it is really suffering from.
Many organizations are suffering; they feel sick and need a cure. They suffer from dysfunctional leadership; others suffer from quality of staff, skill gaps, identity crisis, cultural dysfunction, change, poor structure among other conditions. Aspects such as low productivity, negativity or toxicity, resistance, poor customer service are symptoms that indicate the existence of an underlying condition. To unearth the underlying condition, difficult questions such as the leadership involvement, the work climate etc. need to be asked. In addition, a company’s vital signs such as the financial ratios, staff and customer satisfaction need to be assessed to determine if within acceptable ranges. To get back to a healthy state, the underlying causes must be addressed. Unfortunately, many organizations often address only the symptoms. Without treating the underlying issue, the symptoms keep recurring.
As a common symptom, poor customer service is described in many different ways. The staff may be seen to be slow and lethargic, cold and rude, careless and unconcerned or there may be customer complaints. By examining an organization, it becomes evident what the underlying causes are. Dysfunctional leadership has been cited as the main cause of poor customer service and this often goes hand in hand with an unhealthy and sometimes even a toxic culture. Is your organization suffering as a result of these?
If we only tell a doctor that we are in pain and need pain relievers and withhold any other information, he may not know how best to treat us. If the doctor goes ahead to write a prescription only with the limited information, we should be suspicious of his expertise. In the same way, organizations should go beyond only treating poor customer service with skills training. Many interventions to improve customer experience exists. However, these can only be prescribed and executed if an organization is ready for a full diagnosis.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy