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Rapid Growth: Dealing with People for Success

I’m not exactly Dale Carnegie (author of How to Win Friends and Influence People), but I’m not too bad at dealing with people. Dealing with co-workers during times of rapid growth can be tough and very frustrating. The main reason that dealing with employees at company that are undergoing rapid growth is difficult is because are busy (especially executives). They barely have time to do their jobs, much less help you do your job.

Management Dealing with Frontline Employees:
For some reason, executives and management (especially at larger companies) often don’t know how to talk to or deal with frontline employees. Here are some tips for management to deal with frontline employees:

  • Be nice.This is so obvious, but people just don’t seem to get it. You need to be nice to people you want to deal with. Be friendly, try and help them, do things at their convenience, and all of those things. Also be sure to let employees know that you appreciate them.
  • Give them time. Executives often like to call an employee to their office and continue checking their email, answering phone calls, and talking to other people at the same time. This is rude and a waste of everyone’s time. Give whoever you are meeting with your full attention and don’t do anything else that isn’t related (i. e. looking something up) to the conversation at hand.
  • Don’t interrupt them. Another thing executives like to do is ambush employees during their break (lunch or mid-shift, etc.). Don’t do that – the employees need their break time. Pull them off the floor (when they aren’t terribly busy) and ask if it is a good time to talk.
  • Follow through. If you say you are going to do something, follow through on it. Similarly, if your company practices succession management then let your employees know about the potential for advancement and give them the opportunity to accomplish it.

Employees Dealing with Management:
Employees are sometimes (actually, usually) afraid of management. I can see their reasons, but they need to get tougher and be able to talk to the leaders at their company.

  • Stop fearing. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. I wouldn’t worry about talking to management unless you are going to say something that could easily insult someone or something and word it as such. Word everything as constructive criticism or a way to enable you to do your job better.
  • Be considerate. Ask about the best way to get in touch with the particular person (email, phone, etc.) and times they are generally available. If they say they are busy, say “OK, I’ll catch up with you another time” and walk away. You will probably need to be persistent, but you shouldn’t be annoying.
  • Have your information. Along the lines of being considerate, ensure you have all of the information you need before talking or meeting with an executive or management team member. You should have all the facts, figures, prices, contact information, and whatever else might be relevant.

Supervisors and middle managers need to follow both sets of advice. They are a liaison between the employees and the management and need to make both groups happy. Everyone being able to work with each other is extremely important. Though these guidelines should be followed all the time, they are especially important to follow when people are unusually busy or overloaded, such as a time of rapid growth.

Rapid Growth: Recruiting, Hiring, and Training

A very common set of problems that companies run into during rapid growth times are the problems associated with recruiting, hiring, and training staff members. Like a lot of things during rapid growth times, the quality levels typically go down a few notches when everyone gets busy.

Recruiting & Hiring:
I am so happy when I have already covered things that come up in series. I talk quite a bit about hiring. Here are some posts that are worth reviewing:

These posts address a few key issues (where to find people, how to ensure you hire the right people, etc.). By the way, I discovered this article about Headsets.com’s hiring process. It is pretty lengthy process (as Mike Faith described in his interview with Service Untitled) and is worth looking at.

The most important thing when it comes to recruiting and hiring is not to settle. You need a big batch of candidates to pick from and to get that, you may need to spend some money. Post ads everywhere, hire recruiters, setup an employee referral program, and quite a bit more.


Hire trainers.
If your company doesn’t already have a dedicated trainer (or more), it should. My general rule of thumb is for every 50 employees, one needs to have a job related exclusively to training. Depending on the company, this number may need to be higher or lower. An average company with 150 employees should do well with three dedicated trainers.

A dedicated trainer is someone who wakes up everyday and thinks about how to make the training process at Company XYZ better. They then go into work and do the actual training or something related to it (i. e. writing documentation for training) all day.

Hire other people.
Hire other to help with training, recruiting, and hiring. You may need an employee assessment expert, someone that specializes in interviewing, and a few recruiters. You can bring these people on as full employees (if you think it is needed) or simply as consultants. Companies that are growing quickly don’t have time to “figure it out.”

If you are hiring 5 people a day, you need to make sure they are right for your company. If not, the mistake can be costly. It is far less expensive to hire someone to do it right. The same goes with your training programs – why waste a week of your new employees’ time? Make sure the time counts.

Rapid Growth: Pros, Cons, and Focus

Believe it or not, rapid growth in companies actually has its advantages when it comes to customer service. Not suprisingly, it has a lot of disadvantages as well.


  • Influx of new sales and customers
  • Things are easy to change
  • Often increased publicity and exposure, which means new sources for potential partners, employees, etc.
  • More money for things like hiring, improvements, etc.


  • Influx of new sales and customers
  • Things are easy to change
  • Employees at all levels are often overwhelmed from too much work
  • Quality levels often suffer

Those are just some of the many. These happen to play the biggest role when it comes to customer service. What other ones can you think of?

A big problem with companies when they are in high growth periods is they often lose focus. Things simply get too busy and executives have a hard time concentrating on what needs to be done. Here are some tips for focusing during periods of rapid growth:

  • Step back. It is nessecary to step back and exaimine where you want your company to be and what you want to focus on. Write down where your priorties are and how you want to see them change over the next several months and longterm.
  • Bring on more people. During times of rapid growth, it will be nessecary to bring on more people and to delegate some day-to-day responsibilites. Consider hiring consultants, promoting from within, and hiring people especially for specailized jobs. Having people able to concentrate on each part of the business will ensure the company can achieve it goals.
  • Communicate the goals. An important part of focusing is communicating the goals and the focus to everyone. This one they can point it out if you are drifting or if there is something you could be doing better.
  • Stay focused. Be sure to stay with whatever your focus is. It is important to remind yourself every day “We want to become the best customer service company.” or whatever your focus happens to me. If you remember that when making decisions and when working, it will be much easier to remain focused throughout your company’s growth.

Series: Customer Service in Rapid Growth

As someone who follows business as well as a consultant, I have noticed that growth presents a big challenge to customer service orientated organizations (Duh).

These companies, which are often relatively small (usually well under 200 or so employees) realize that they are growing quite fast, but can’t quite keep up with it. They are obviously doing something right, but dealing with day-to-day things when a company is growing and expanding rapidly is tough. When you are involved with the company directly, it seems almost impossible. Everything moves faster and it is hard to put things into perspective.

This week I am going to talk exclusively about customer service in rapid/high growth companies. It will touch a bit on regular business management as well, but the main focus is customer service in high growth companies. Next week I will return to normal posts about other things.

Some things that will be covered:

  • Recruiting, hiring, and training
  • Helping to focus during times of rapid growth and align the company properly
  • Advantages and disadvantages of rapid growth when it comes to customer service
  • Dealing with management and other staff to aid through rapid growth times
  • Procedures and processes that can be implemented to aid with growth
  • Technology that can be used to help deal with and even benefit from growth
  • and quite a bit more.

Keep in mind that I am not an enterprise level customer service, business, or software guy. Most of my experience is dealing with relatively small businesses that have under 200 employees. That is the group to which most of the advice, insight, information, etc. I provide is targeted to, especially in this series.

Customer Service and Operations

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. As promised, here is Friday’s short post.

Believe it or not, the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Customer Service (or equivalents) should talk quite a lot. Their jobs are related and they have a lot to learn from each other.

Someone who is in charge of operations is responsible for operating the company on a day-to-day basis. Customer service is both a long term and day-to-day commitment. Customer service also involves a lot of operating procedures.

A COO should regularly review what is involved with certain company processes (i. e. fulfilling an order). A customer service manager should do the same thing. Both should be dedicated to finding out a better way to do it. The customer service manager is usually more of an advocate for the customer, while the COO wants to improve things from an operational/logistics standpoint (making things more efficient).

The COO and customer service manager at a company should try to go through processes quarterly or so and find what they can do to improve them. They should go through what is involved with setting up an account, upgrading, submitting a support request, and all of those things.

Going through major processes like that will allow the two people (who likely have different backgrounds and quite a bit of influence in the company) to find out ways to improve them in more ways than one (making them more efficient, more customer friendly, etc.).

It’s a win-win for everyone.

An Executive’s (Quick) Guide to Customer Service: PDF Version

As promised, here is the free download of the PDF version (with an expanded introduction and some other extra information) of the Executive’s Quick Guide to Customer Service.

Since everyone has different browser settings and such, here is an easy way to download the file:

  1. Go to http://www.serviceuntitled.com/downloads.
  2. Click the file titled “ExecGuidetoCS.pdf”.
  3. Click Save and save the document to your Desktop or a folder of your choice.
  4. Open the file using Adobe Acrobat Reader or Foxit Reader (my personal favorite).
  5. Read and enjoy!

If clicking the file does not work, you may need to right click it and choose an option like “Save Target As”. One of those two ways seems to work on pretty much every computer.

You are free (and encouraged) to distribute the article around to friends and colleagues – just ensure you follow the terms outlined at the end (basically, don’t remove anything). The article will hopefully be helpful to you and/or people within your company.

There will be many more downloadable PDF articles on customer service available on Service Untitled in the upcoming months. Most likely, they will all be distributed under the same terms. The next one is the Big List of Things Not to Say. After that, I expect I will go through some old posts and pick out the “gems” and make those available as PDFs as well.

I would like to wish all my U.S. readers a Happy Thanksgiving. I will be taking the day off, but will be back with a short post on Friday. Normal postings will continue on Monday.

An Executive’s (Quick) Guide to Customer Service

This post is also called Five W’s of Customer Service (for Executives). However, I like the above mentioned title more and think it is more appropriate.

I don’t talk about it too much, but a big issue with customer service is that management, particularly non-customer service executives can’t quite embrace the concept. I’ve talked about the Five W’s of Success Through Customer Service, but it wasn’t specific to executives.

This is an executive friendly version of the Five W’s of Customer Service – they should print it out and hang it up on their wall. I will post a PDF version of it later today or tomorrow.

Who: A commitment to customer service needs to start at the top. You need to influence your employees, co-workers, partners, and suppliers to provide great customer service to everyone they interact with. It is your reasonability as a company leader to help guide the company in the right direction and ensure people focus on the right things. In this case, it is a commitment to and a focus on customer service.

What: What is the customer service standard in your industry? Think about the answer to that question and then, step it up a notch. Customer service is defined as providing product or service support to potential or existing customers. However, you need to take it a step further: make a customer’s day when they interact with your company, give them a reason to refer others to your company, and go the extra mile whenever possible.

Why: Beside the why not answer? The more objective answer is that with better customer service, you will see improved customer satisfaction, which more than likely will lead to: fewer complaints, happier and more productive employees, more repeat business, increased referrals, better reviews of company products and services, and so much more.

Where: Everywhere. Great customer service cannot be limited to one store, or just over email support – it has to be everywhere. Consistently high quality customer service needs to be provided over every medium and at every place you interact with customers.

When: Do not let customer service be another phase or project of the month at your company. Make customer service a permanent and ongoing commitment and focus. Whenever you interact with customers, you need to provide great customer service.

How: Hire people with experience in customer service that can help make a difference and learn as much as you can about the subject: read articles, read books, read blogs, ask others about what they do, and pay attention to customer service. Most of all, stay focused and keep working. Doing all these things can make a difference in your customer service and subsequently, your business as a whole.

The hardest part of customer service is sticking with it. You need to stay focused on the goal (great customer service all the time) and always keep working to improve. If you can do that, sooner or later, you will see that your company will provide great customer service and subsequently, the business results will also improve.

An (Ugly) Customer Service Story

You’ve probably heard of Crocs – the company that makes the ugly (but rather comfortable) shoes. The company has become extremely successful from selling shoes that come in a lot of colors and are very comfortable. They’ve created a great brand and apparently they know a little bit about customer service as well.

A friend of mine ordered a pair of black Crocs. The company sent her pink Crocs by accident. She called them and made them aware of the mistake. The company apologized and sent her a pair of pink Crocs right away. They also told her to keep the pink ones. She was surprised that she didn’t have to send them back and deal with shipping and handling and all of those annoying procedures.

My friend gave the pair of pink Crocs to another friend of hers (I was not offered the shoes, but if offered, I would have politely declined). She shared the story about how she got the shoes in the first place with her friend as well. I imagine my friend’s friend also shared the story a few times and I’m sharing it as well.

From Crocs’ view
It probably doesn’t cost Crocs too much to make the shoes and by letting the customer keep the shoes, they saved themselves the shipping and handling costs (which they should pay for if they make the customer send the shoes back) as well as the labor involved with adding them to the warehouse again, repackaging, doing the paperwork, etc. Returns and exchanges are usually a big hassle for companies.

My theme lately has been the power of creating a positive (or negative) buzz through customer service. When a company uses customer service to their advantage, it pays off. The customer is happy and they may very well tell others about the experience.

Companies should try to think of customer service as a form of marketing. In fact, to an extent, it already exists. The particular form of marketing is called word of mouth marketing and customer service has a lot to do with WOMM.

P.S. Notice the image and the Technorati tags there have been lately? Service Untitled is getting pretty fancy. I’m really liking Windows Live Writer.

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