Not a revolt – a revolution.

This post will hopefully show that I have at least somewhat more “academic” intelligence than it seems. Though it may (not) seem like it, I find history quite interesting. A little history mixed with customer service. It may be a first (have to be innovative somehow). A particularly interesting time in history was the time of the French Revolution (1789 is the year it started).

There is at least a somewhat famous conversation that occurred between Louis XVI (the French king at the time) and a duke on the night of July 14, 1789. The duke came to inform Louis that the prison/fortress of Bastille had been taken over by a mob. The duke explained what had happened and here is how the last part of the conversation went:

Louis XVI: Then it’s a revolt?
Duke: No, sire, it’s a revolution.

Now, I am going to (try to) apply this quote to modern times, particularly business.

Louis didn’t understand the scale of what was happening because he was not informed. He wasn’t involved enough to understand that things weren’t going well in France and that people were upset enough (and that the problems were widespread enough) to have a revolution. The duke, however, was closer to the frontlines and realized what was happening. By the time Louis learned about what was happening, it was kind of late to fix anything (besides his mental limitations – he was supposedly quite stupid).

As an executive or manager, are you informed about what is going on in your customer service department? If you aren’t involved directly, do you talk to people who are? You need to be aware of what is happening in key departments of your company. It may be through a quick conversation with the customer service manager (“How’s customer service today?”) or by formal weekly or monthly reports.

Customer service representatives should make their bosses aware of what is happening. Supervisors should make their bosses aware. Supervisors need to make their bosses aware, and so on. That way, everyone at every level is informed about what is happening.

Mike Faith used the metaphor of the frog jumping in war. If a frog jumps in boiling water, it will notice it and jump out. If the water slowly heats up to a boil, the frog will not notice and will die, unless rescued or somehow made aware of the problem. Louis didn’t realize the scale of the problem until something sudden happened (say if the temperature suddenly jumped 40 degrees) and by then, it was too late.

What do you do to ensure that everyone stays informed about what is happening? Occasional reports only cover so much. It usually takes more than that – sometimes you need to make more of an effort (talk to people (customers and employees), read the tickets, listen to the phone calls, have consultants help audit things, etc.).