My antivirus software license had expired and the company emailed me to let me know. The email said I could renew and upgrade my software online.
While I was downloading the upgrade, the process froze my computer. I couldn’t get it restarted correctly. I couldn’t get is started at all. My computer formerly working well was now incapacitated by a software upgrade for which I’d paid.
Over the next several days I spoke with or emailed with eight different customer service employees at that company (I used my other computer, a laptop). Every one of those employees took action.
The ones I spoke with by phone told me exactly what to do. I did it, and my computer was still broke.
Those who emailed gave instructions for me to follow. I followed those instructions and my computer still didn’t work. There was lots of activity, but no solution from the provider.
Desperate, I finally hired a consultant to fix my computer. It cost me $250, more than three times the cost of the antivirus software upgrade.
When I think about the employees at that software company and their help in resolving my problem, they were zeros. Interestingly, they all took action. But they still failed.
Why? What would enable any one of them to go from zero to hero?
Many managers don’t understand the nuance of what I’m about to share with you. Even fewer employees consciously think about it either.
Zeros hide behind taking action. Heroes take responsibility.
Going through the normal process these reps followed automatically didn’t fix my computer or salvage my loyalty. If any one of those people had taken responsibility, the outcome would have been entirely different.
Imagine if one of the representatives I spoke with said something like this: “Mr. Sanborn, you must be mightily frustrated since your office computer is down. I’m going to personally work with you to get it fixed. I’m not going to send you an email and disappear. I won’t hang up the phone never to be heard from again, nor will I hand you off to a colleague. I’m going to help you get your computer fixed even if I have to fly to Denver to get it done.”
That last line, in italics, seems dramatic. Actually, if a person had gone that far to solve my problem, it would have been remarkable. I probably would have written about it and told the story dozens of time, mentioning the individual and the company by name. The good will and positive buzz would have far outweighed the cost of a quick trip to Denver.
Of course it probably wouldn’t have been necessary. Just some focused attention by an individual, rather than the redundant handoffs and wasted time I experienced, would have been enough to restore my computer. It would have not only saved my business but also prevented the word-of-mouth thrashing that resulted from being abandoned by the company that caused the problem.
Here is an action plan for Heroes:
1. Take responsibility for results.
2. Fix problems even if you didn’t create them.
3. Think ownership, not avoidance.
4. Do more than necessary.
5. Be willing to extend yourself.
6. Coordinate the expertise of others.
And here’s the recipe for Zeros:
1. Take only the action necessary to stay out of trouble.
2. Let others fix the problems you created.
3. Think avoidance, not ownership.
4. Do just enough to get by.
5. Blame other people and circumstances for lack of results.
6. Pass the buck to others.
The best way to have more heroes on your team is to hire them, but that’s not enough. Teaching, recognizing and reward those who choose to be a hero to customers and colleagues are also needed. And zeros shouldn’t be tolerated. If they refuse to change, they likely need a change of employment.
Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit www.marksanborn.com.