Tag Archives: Data

Moments of Truth

Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”

Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!
Daniel 4:19 (NIV)

The company I have served for 25 years works with all kinds of businesses from all over. We survey our client’s customers in order to determine what drives the customer’s satisfaction. We assess phone calls and emails between the company and their customers to determine where they have opportunities to improve the customer experience. Sometimes the data our research and assessments reveal tell a story that a client doesn’t want to hear. It’s our responsibility to communicate the uncomfortable truth. Let’s just say, I have stories of clients who listened, and stories of clients who didn’t.

In today’s chapter, Daniel finds himself in an uncomfortable position. Having gained a reputation for upright honesty and the ability to interpret dreams, he and his friends have attained positions of power and prominence in King Nebuchadnezzar’s administration. When Nebuchadnezzar has another perplexing dream, he calls on Daniel for its interpretation. This time, however, Daniel realizes the dream is not something that his proud, temperamental, foreign master is going to want to hear. The text hints at Daniel’s hesitation and the internal struggle that the King, himself, notices.

The higher the position, the greater the stakes. That’s what I’ve experienced in my own career. When I was a young man working on front-line projects there was very little risk involved. My employer and my seniors had to worry about our clients in closed-door meetings. I just kept my head down and did my job. Now, I find myself at the top of the org chart. I am responsible for others.  My words and actions impact everyone in our company. Now I’m the one facing clients in closed-door meetings. The stakes are very different.

I have to believe Daniel was feeling something similar. Before, he was just an unknown minion in the King’s vast stable of advisors. Now, Daniel and his companions are in a position of prominence and authority. They have political clout. They have enemies. Daniel now knows, first-hand, King Neb’s ego, temper, and fatal flaws. The stakes are higher. It feels like there is more to lose.

Daniel hesitates. The King notices. The King wants an answer.

Is Daniel going to tell the truth? This is a moment of decision.

Daniel does tell the truth. He sticks to his faith and his principles. He once again puts everything on the line and risks losing it all.

It’s Monday morning as I write this and I’ve enjoyed being unplugged for a long holiday weekend with friends. I’m heading back into the work week this morning leading a company that was founded on the principles of God’s Message. That means treating clients the way I’d want to be treated. It means serving well and going the extra mile. It means speaking the truth in love, even when it may not be what our clients want to hear. Daniel provides me an example to follow.

Even when the stakes are higher and it appears there is far more to lose, am I still willing to say what is true?

Messengers of Warning

Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing
    without revealing his plan
    to his servants the prophets.
Amos 3:7 (NIV)

Over the past 23 years I’ve been a business consultant specializing in customer satisfaction research and quality assessment. Some of the most enjoyable, long-term client relationships I’ve experienced are with companies who value the data and insight our team provides. When you see a client’s long-term improvement and success, it’s rewarding.

What is not as enjoyable in my profession is to watch good people and good companies ignore data that offers them a hint of trouble on the horizon. Often, the data from our research or assessments warn of changing customer attitudes or internal corporate issues that threaten to create larger (and costly) problems for the company if the issues aren’t strategically addressed. It’s never fun or easy being the bearer of bad news, and even less fun watching insecure executives and managers burying or denying the data in an effort to avoid the issue. On occasion, I have to defend a sharp attack on our data and methods when a client really doesn’t like what our data reveals.

The ancient prophets occupied a critical role in the Great Story that God is telling from Genesis to Revelation. Like spiritual consultants presenting a spiritual picture of what lay ahead, the prophets sounded the spiritual warning sirens of trouble on the horizon. When current circumstances had the government and public feeling good in the moment, the prophets often offered a bleaker picture of what was going to happen if certain issues were not addressed and strategic spiritual changes weren’t made. More often than not, the prophets had to watch as their message was ignored. They had to watch their warning of doom come to pass. They also endured sharp personal attacks from their audience. Some of them were even killed as scapegoats.

Jesus regularly mentioned the prophets in His teaching, pointing out to the religious leaders of the day that their ancestors ignored and killed the prophets who were sent to warn them. Because the priesthood and religious duties of the temple were passed down by family line, the religious leaders Jesus spoke to were the direct descendants of those who sometimes killed God’s messengers:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

“Woe to you [religious leaders], because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them.”

“Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute. Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world'”

“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

This morning I’m thinking about the role of being a truth teller. It’s not always easy being the bearer of difficult or bleak news. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to simply paint rosier pictures and ignore what we don’t wish to see or hear. But, we all need prophets in our lives. Sometimes we need someone to look us in the eye and tell us the truth we don’t want to hear. We’re better off when we find the wisdom and courage to heed the warning signs and make the necessary strategic decisions to avoid future problems.

Boiled Down to Bullet Points

bullet pointsHe has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 (NIV)

I am on the road training this week. When our group analyzes a company’s phone calls, we methodically tear it down into a ton of behavioral and analytical data points. When sharing the data with Customer Service Representatives and translating it into actionable training points I find that the sheer volume of data and the machinations of our analytical process can easily overwhelm them. As I walk through the information, I sometimes see my client’s eyes glaze over and I know that I’ve lost them.

Over time, I’ve learned that many individuals simply need things boiled down for them. They don’t want lengthy explanations or an exhaustive review of all the data. They just want the Cliff Notes, the Reader’s Digest condensed version, the bullet points, or the crux of the matter. The client I’m working this week has well over 50 different data elements that we measure in their phone calls, but in my training this year I’m only talking about the five things that matter most.

Life and faith can sometimes be like that. God’s Message is a lengthy tome assembled over centuries in different languages. The contents are arranged categorically rather than chronologically. Some of it is history, while other parts are poetry and song lyrics. Other parts are letters and some of the stranger bits are prophetic messages in poetic form. It can be confusing to find and grasp the larger storyline. Sometimes we just want things boiled down into a bullet list.

God’s message through the prophet Micah does it nicely in today’s chapter:

  • Act justly (e.g. do the right thing by God, others, and yourself)
  • Love mercy (e.g. love tangibly, forgive continually, give sacrificially)
  • Walk humbly (e.g. be considerate of others; put their needs ahead of your own)

My Life: A Photo Abecedarius

QA

Q is for “Quality Assessment.” For twenty years I have spent my days listening to and analyzing recordings of phone calls (e.g. “Your call may be monitored for quality and training purposes“). I’ve analyzed the calls of sales people, customer service reps, collectors, credit analysts, tech support reps, receptionists, engineers, bankers, 401k specialists, internal help desk reps, and attorneys (just to name a few). At one point I tried to guesstimate the number of phone calls I’d analyzed in my career but when I realized that it was well into the tens of thousands I simply chose to put it out of my mind.

The analysis we do is methodical, objective and thorough. The goal is to mine “moments of truth” when the customer is interacting with our client’s company so we can unearth opportunities to continuously improve the customer experience both from from a communication standpoint (e.g. What the agent says and how he/she says it) and a systemic standpoint (e.g. What policies/procedures aren’t working for the customer?). Because the data is tracked over time we can quantify improvements and declines. Our data and reports are used in executive strategy sessions, shareholder meetings, as well as in front-line performance management sessions.

Our smallest client is a small manufacturing company that began with one guy answering the phone to take orders and provide customer service. Fifteen years later the company leads their niche industry and that one guy is managing a team of six people. We’re still listening, analyzing, and coaching them. With our largest clients we manage the analysis, reporting, training, and coaching of hundreds of agents from multiple teams in different office locations, even in different countries.

Speaking of which, I better finish this post. I have calls to analyze 🙂

Related Links:

Responsibile Conduct

Never blame any day in your life. Good days gi...
Never blame any day in your life. Good days give you happiness, bad days give you experience, and the worst days give you a lesson. (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
Galatians 6:5 (NLT)

I’m on the road this week working with a client. I find it fascinating working with different businesses and interacting with employees at different levels from the executive suite to the new front-line employees. Every business has its’ own unique culture, and it’s interesting to experience those different cultures.

Part of my job is helping my clients understand what their customers really want, and to consistently deliver a service experience that will lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. We do the research to know the customer, to know what’s really happening in customer interactions and we base all of our recommendations, training and coaching on data. The data from our research often reveals that what the company, a department, a team or an individual is doing and saying needs to change if they want to satisfy their customers. That’s when the fun begins.

When I begin challenging people to change and do the work required to deliver a higher level of service, I hear every excuse:

  • “You don’t understand. Our team is different.”
  • “This is just the way I have always been.  I can’t change.”
  • “Your data is wrong.”
  • “I can’t let my manager see your report. I’ll get fired.”

Human nature is a funny thing. It’s really no different in every day life. Rather than doing the work of change we make up every excuse. We blame others. We blame genetics. We blame brain chemicals. We blame depression. We blame our family. We excuse our poor habits and behaviors as if we have no choice in the matter.

But, we do. We have a million choices each day in what we do, what we say, and how we choose to interact with others. We are each responsible for our own conduct.

Let’s conduct ourselves in such a way that we make a positive change today.