Post # 1
I run a small non-profit (no full-time employees, all hourly). It’s generally a job for high school or college students, but we also have an employee who is retired from her “real” job and works for us now. She used to work in the summers for us, and when she retired, she came to work for us a bit more.
Here’s the situation: She is a seriously valuable employee to us. We really like her, she takes great pride in her job, shows initiative, etc. The problem is that she comes off…harsh. A bit to co-workers, but that doesn’t usually cause problems. The problem is with customers, we occasionally get complaints that she is rude or condescending. The thing is, it’s just her personality. She truly thinks she is being kind, and I can see where she’s coming from. When we get a complaint and discuss it with her, she usually remembers the incident and recounts why she did and said what she did, and it’s easy to see her side of the story, but the same sort of thing seems to happen.
We’ve tried some hospitality training for her, and don’t really have any customer service training possiblities in our area, at least that I know of. In addition, I’m not sure these things help, because I really think it’s a personality thing–that’s just who she is.
Any thoughts? Advice? Resources?
Post # 3
I think you just have to have a serious talk with her. Say pretty much what you said here-she’s valuable and you know she doesn’t mean to come off that way, but she needs to try harder to speak nicely with customers so they feel more comfortable. If you let it continue your business is going to look bad.
Post # 4
I have this same problem. I come across as harsh and I don’t mean to. It’s gotten me in ‘trouble’ at various jobs before.
I found that going over the conversation with people after, listening to the tone in which I was saying things and the language I was using was helpful. We would often look at it from the ‘how could I have said it better’ perspective. I hate it when people say ‘that’s just the way I am’ – it’s not an excuse, you can learn if you want to.
My old boss was like this, and we clashed, I spoke to her about HER tone when she was talking to employees because I couldn’t deal with the way she spoke to us (in front of customers). I told her I understood that she didn’t mean it the way it was coming across but not everyone understands that – it worked, she got better and paid more attention to what she said.
Post # 5
- Wedding: September 2014 - Turf Valley
Is there a way to keep her from working directly with customers?
Is she embracing the constructive criticism and trying to make improvements, or is she simply defending herself? Depending on which she does would influence my thoughts on her.
Post # 6
Can you adjust her duties so she doesn’t interact with customers much? Barring that, could you maybe pair a younger employee with her who has great customer-service skills (you could frame it as the younger employee learning from a skilled veteran) – she might pick up a few things without feeling “taught” and the other employee might be able to keep the customer happier.
Post # 7
LMD: The only possible job she can do is interacting with customers–the only people who don’t are myself and the executive director (well, we still do, but not quite on the same level as we generally handle complaints).
She definitely embraces the criticism and tries really hard to work on it–that’s what’s tough. If she just didn’t care, we’d probably fire her. To clarify, she would never say “that’s just the way I am” (those are my own thoughts). She really, really tries to get better.
LadyBear: She does a lot of our training of new employees, so that might be a good idea. We are also doing a customer service training for everyone in the coming weeks, so I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to integrate a conversation about tone of voice, empathy, not being concerned about being right, etc. I’m sure I will do that, but I’d love any ideas people have about what I can say or do to point this out without calling her out on it (although I will continue to have one-on-one conversations as well).
Post # 8
Maybe you can give her an actual list of things to improve (if she wants to work on it, that is) like: 1) make sure you’re smiling, 2) speak softly like you’re speaking to a kitten… whatever works even if it’s silly, maybe she can just keep a post-it up where she can see it when customers come in.