Tuesday, December 22, 2009

HR and Service with a Smile

Throughout my various employments, the theme of customer service is a reoccurring one.

In no particular order I have been:
- a cashier
- a customer service rep
- a front desk gal
- a return desk rep
- a box office attendant
- a deli counter server
- an inside sales rep
- a clothing store sales person

Although I learned a lot in these roles, the main take-away for me was that I was going to do everything in my power to not end up in Customer Service. I would not be a lifer. No way. Not me. I was a thinker - a doer - a coordinator, not a C/S person.

Of course, time and experience has taught me that you cannot escape Customer Service. It's part of every role - it's only your customers that varies.

In HR, the managers and employees are my regular customers.

So imagine my surprise when I had a phone message this morning from one the company's clients. Not just the client, but an employee at our client - looking for some resolution to their everyday customer service-y problem. My first instinct was to transfer the message to the appropriate call centre supervisor, but then I thought...I hate when people pull that crap.

So I listened to the message again and realized that I had helped this particular client out over the summer (when the call centre supervisor was away and they needed someone who had a brain and could speak French).

And although it's "not my job" to deal with call centre complaints, I could do it again. She specifically called me. I helped her last time and she kept my name and number and at one time this might have annoyed me off as I realize it creates (god forbid) expectations and precedents, but really it's a compliment. I did a good job and she remembered this.

With a bit of digging, I got answers to her questions and called her back. once again, she was very pleased.

So here we are about 15 some years and two career directions later and again I'm reminded that you can take the gal out of Customer Service, but you can't take the Customer Service out of the gal.

To all those that have work in Customer Service during the ridiculously extended hours of the holiday shopping season - I wish you all the best. Even if you don't like your job. And don't smile much.

Friday, December 18, 2009


For all the sarcastic, judgmental, family-alienating things I do and say, I’m generally a rule-abiding, responsible, and trustworthy person.

Today, I was determined to stretch beyond this image and do something completely selfish and somewhat irresponsible. I had all intentions of taking an extended lunch and going to see a movie at the cinema near work.

Gasp! (I know!)

Seriously. This is a big deal for me and it really isn’t the most HR responsible thing I should be considering, but the reality was that I felt like I deserved an escape where I could just sit back and be entertained.

Not only that. I was ditching the office potluck lunch.

First, I cannot stand watching large groups of people stuff their faces, and two, I figured it was the opportune time for me to bail since these lunches typically last well beyond the usual hour.

So I made a break for it. I timed it so that I would arrive in time to take my seat as the previews were ending…I was going to see New Moon…again (I said I needed escapism). I was looking forward to solidifying my membership on Team Edward.

As I walked up to the theater I noticed a group of people standing around and one person turned to me to let me know that the cinema did not have power. Completely down. Nothing.

No other business in the area was affected – only the cinema.

I was crushed. I just stood there with a completely dazed look on my face. I believe I uttered, “Seriously?!!” about half a dozen times before returning to my car.

I believe in signs and this was a very hard-to-ignore sign.

I was not meant to skip work. I was meant to return to office. I was reminded that I need to be the morale compass of my office – the beacon of responsibility.

I was destined to…hello, clothing stores…shop.

So I drowned my cinema-less afternoon in trying on clothes and I still made it back to the office in the appropriate amount of time. My HR virtue remains intact.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

'tis the season

Tonight is my company's Christmas party, which they do up in style: dinner and dancing at a swanky hotel.

All questions of whether this is appropriate during the economic climate aside, it is more the other issues of "appropriate-ness" that have me cringing.

I find it amusing that HR, managers, and other professionals are quick to blog, tweet, and circulate friendly reminders of the Dos and Don't over workplace holiday parties, but the reality is that those people that SHOULD heed the advice, WON'T. We are preaching to the converted.

For many people, the party is not seen as an extension of work (particularly if it's after hours and you've rented a room in the same hotel) and an excuse to let it all hang out..literally and figuratively.

No amount of reminders, coaching, hinting, and blatant comments will change their minds. Dammit, they earned this.

The reality is that those with good judgement will exercise it and those that lack it will entertain the rest of us (and give us something to talk about Monday morning).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

When fair does not mean equal

Tomorrow should be fun day. Salary increase (or lack there of) letters will be distributed to the employees.

This is where the strong managers will be separated from the weak.

Sure it’s nice to find out you are getting an increase this year, but how much does it really mean when it’s communicated via your manager handing you a piece of paper and saying “Good year”.

Sure it sucks to find out you are not getting an increase, but the sting can be reduced if your manager takes the extra time to explain why…whether it’s a business decision or a performance issue.

For me, it’s not the initial meetings that causes me work – it’s the reverberations of when the employees start to share (and oh boy do they share in my company...people...let's put the "personal" back in personnel)and discover first hand that fair does not mean equal.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Lack of coordination

There are hunters. There are gatherers. And then there are coordinators.

I’m in the third group.

This does not mean I like to organize potlucks or game nights for the neighbourhood. Nor does it mean that I like to make travel arrangements for executives. It means that I like to take all the information and processes that I have and make order of it – in a way that makes things more productive and efficient.

I do this at work - it’s my job. I coordinate recruiting. I coordinate employee sessions. I coordinate the parking passes, the payroll, and pension planning.

I do this at home. I have kids: 9, 13, and 39. I coordinate evening routines. I coordinate family outings. I coordinate household expenses.

However, I’ve come to realize that my need to coordinate is like kryptonite to many.

To every supervisor, manager, and family member that asks me to do something or be somewhere – THEY are priority number one. They either fail to realize (or cease to care) that others may have similar requests.

My reaction is to sit back, take in the requests/ invites, lay them out like cards, and then sort through by priority and urgency. When pressed to commit to multiple meetings, projects, or Christmas dinners…my typical response is: I will have to get back to you. (And I do.)

Apparently this drives people mental.

I’ve been accused of waiting to see if I get a better offer, looking to cherry-pick work, or even procrastinate. I can make decisions quickly. In fact, once I know what the options are – I’m very quick to put things in order and make a call. And sometimes this means saying no.

What irks me, is that I don’t recall anyone complaining when the Bionic Woman stopped in mid-chase and asked those around her to wait a minute while she used her super-hearing to listen in to evil plots. So, why is it a big deal when I ask for the same so that I can employ my “super-power” to disseminate the chaos that is thrown my way?

I tell you, we superheroes...ummm...coordinators are seriously misunderstood.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ridiculous and petty work-related vent

To the person who took my lunch from the fridge today.

I hope it sucked.

I say this because I don’t know how it was going to taste. I was determined to bring my lunch in today, but was running low on staples, but high on inspiration. So you were a guinea pig my dear friend. The rice/ spinach/onion concoction was a mash-up of what I thought might be good.

I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to eating it. It didn’t look that appealing, but I balanced this against the nutritional value and my reluctance to pay ridiculous cafeteria prices.

Still, I cannot imagine that your lunch and hunger were that desperate. I saw much more appealing lunches that you could have taken. I considered it myself when I saw that I was Tupperware-less.

Pray that you don’t have spinach stuck in your teeth, because I will not hesitate to point it out.