I’m an “expert” columnist for Customer Advantage Newsletter and ever few weeks or months they send me questions which I answer. I almost always forget to publish those Q & A’s and so today with my new eyes on potential blog posts I answered one of their questions and then before filing it away said “Yippee! A blog post!” So here we go.
The question: Customer demand is rising, but we can’t add more people to Service. So we have to do more with less. What’s a good way to approach this situation?
The way you frame the situation is important. You must come at it believing that every one on your team is smart, creative, talented and has something to contribute.
In order to bring out the brilliance in everyone in your organization, you must believe this (or ‘act as if’ you do until you realize it’s true). In holding open the possibility that people will shine they usually do. People live up (or down) to our expectations of them. If we expect and empower them to be competent, creative, innovative problem solvers who create exquisite experiences for customers, they’re more likely to do so.
Once you hold this as true it’s time you give people the chance to help. In a meeting, start with the truth.
“I know we would all like it if we had more resources, but we don’t and in the short term, won’t. We can’t do anything about that but what we CAN do is start getting really creative around here and find ways to work around the reality we’re faced with. I believe this team has the talent and ingenuity it takes to come up with solutions to even our toughest challenges. Let’s brainstorm some ideas together and get started.”
Set aside real time for brainstorming (no judgments, no idea-killer phrases, set amount of time where anything goes.) Get people limbered up with some silly challenges “52 ways you can use a teabag” and when they are loose and laughing introduce your real challenges.
Try using analogy “If this were a zoo (a garden, a circus etc.) how would we look at it?”
Convince yourself and your team that you have the creative potential to discover solutions for any problems and you will. A hint – little rewards, like mini candy bars, stress toys and kazoos always make creative sessions more fun. Once people are in the habit of being more solutions focused you reinforce it when ever you see it. “Jill, I am always so amazed by the way you come up with out of the box solutions that make our customers happy. Great work.”
You might even want to have a once a month celebration for the most workable solutions. Even in the most severe of situations there’s always enough for movie tickets and popcorn rewards.
My answer: The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. Companies everywhere are asking people to do more with less. The second thing you need to know is that times like this give us the opportunity to show how good we really are. I believe that most of us have the ability to do a little better every day.