Managers – The Message You’re Sending About Time is Affecting Customer Service

CC image courtesy of Robbert van der Steeg on Flickr
CC image courtesy of Robbert van der Steeg on Flickr

The choice you need to make is will it affect it in a good way or a bad way?

We are all busy. My to-do list is so long at this point I keep a master running list and a small list just for today, because looking at the long list inspires panic.

As individuals, managers and organizations it can be easy to keep adding responsibilities, expectations and tasks to our list and to the lists of others. Especially at a time like this, when you may be short staffed, or just busier than normal (library usage goes up during a recession) or both.

Unfortunately this attitude towards time can really hurt you in customer service. How staff feel about their time and the expectation from management affects how they interact with patrons. It’s the difference between handing someone a call number and vaguely gesturing towards the stacks and leaving the desk and walking the patron to the book. It’s the difference between hand the book over and walking away or asking if you can help them find anything else. It shows up in the type of greeting patrons receive in that minutes of extra chit-chat so many love, in determining if the information they are asking for is really the information they are seeking.

Don’t think it’s just front line staff either. It can mean the difference in pulling that raggedy looking book or letting it circulate one more time, in ensuring the door knobs and other areas are properly disinfected, in how fast a phone call is returned. I could go on but I think you get the idea.

Want to get smart about time? Here are some suggestions from How Smart Leaders Talk About Time on Harvard Business.

1) Establish a shared language that distinguishes between the “pressure on time” and “impact on goals” factors.

Team leaders often fail to make this distinction clear. Tasks are transmitted without specifying if the emphasis on such task is due to:

  • a combination of the above mentioned two factors
  • the fact the task has a remarkable impact on the individual or group’s goals
  • the restricted timeframe within which the task must be completed
2) Reduce those activities that, despite being important, must be performed under pressure. (emphasis mine)

A successful leader reduces “urgent and important” activities to a minimum, by monitoring:

  • How tasks are planned and delegated.
  • How “urgent and important” activities can be reduced.
  • How much free-of-distraction time people have for high-impact activities.

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