Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The No Asshole Rule

A downside of being in client services and of thinking hard about how to do this well, is you expect it when you are on the other side. The customer is king. The customer pays your salary. The customer is always right. In the same way as it is often difficult for psychologists to switch off and enjoy rather than analyse friends and family, it can be difficult for client service people when the service they receive is not up to scratch.

Working in a call centre has the potential to be one of the worst jobs ever. My chief candidates for that award are toll-booth operator, and night club toilet cleaner, but call centres are not far off. We all want intelligent, knowledgeable, articulate people on the other end of the line. And we want to be able to get angry with them. Most queries to call centres are pretty standard, and pretty boring. We don't want to waste our time going through automated call screening and waiting for option 7. Artificial intelligence can't yet process these simple requests. So we get the loopy listing of things we might need, which irritates us just enough so that we are ready to jump down the throats of the first real person to answer. Who will then put us through to someone else, and ask us to repeat our problem. Who would possibly want that job?

Aiming for top service, call centres will sometimes try get new graduates to man the phones. After 6 months or so, these graduates will just about be able to answer all the questions they are asked but they will also be getting cabin fever. Chances are they really don't like their job. So when our query comes along and we start throwing venom their way - they are a little over it.

Whether at a hotel check-in, in a restaurant, at a bank, or getting a haircut, service industries have the ability to drive us nuts. But I am the King!

Unless the person serving is our friend. Then everything changes. If we recognise the voice on the other end of the line. If a buddy or their family member brings a coffee or a beer. If we are seeing the person who is sorting out our paperwork for a weekly poker game or book club. Then we treat them differently. Then we aren't an asshole. We don't get too precious about everything being perfect. We add a touch of patience. What if we treated everyone like they were a friend?

Robert Sutton talks about 'The No Asshole Rule'. He is speaking about the work environment where sometimes we accept bad behaviour because there is a job that needs doing. We spend a lot of time with colleagues. Life's too short to be surrounded by assholes.

The same goes for serving and being served. I am starting to think the customer is king metaphor has passed its sell by date. We used to have Kings. Then we got Democracy. We used to have majority rule. Then we got constitutions. There are better options.

The idea that there has to be a hierarchy for things to work is an asshole. Follow the No Asshole Rule.

Post a Comment