69. Bust Out of Service Fatigue with Laurie Guest

Episode 69: Bust Out of Service Fatigue with Laurie Guest (Summary)

Exhausted employees, not enough staff, and customers who are more difficult than ever before. The last 2 years have created a tsunami of service fatigue in people facing roles everywhere. How do you keep your team serving clients well when they’re so exhausted that they just don’t give a f…ind out now… on Boss Better Now

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Transcript – Episode 69: Busting Out of Service Fatigue with Laurie Guest

 

Joe:

Exhausted employees, not enough staff, and customers who are more difficult than ever before? The last two years have created a tsunami of service fatigue in people-facing roles everywhere. How do you keep your team serving clients well when they’re so exhausted that they just don’t give a f…find out now (see what I did there) on Boss Better Now.

Jamie:

You’re listening to Boss Better Now. This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Now here’s your host speaker and author Joe Mull.

Joe:

Hello again, BossHeroes. And welcome back to your show. The show that aspires to be food for your boss soul. If you care deeply about being a great boss for your people, but don’t always know how, then welcome home. We aspire to deliver a weekly dose of advice, humor, and encouragement for bosses everywhere. And yes, I did just use the word aspire twice in two consecutive sentences. It’s a favorite. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time listener, I’m just downright thrilled to have you listening today. I am also thrilled that this episode has a very special guest, literally a Guest. We have a guest on the show today. She’s an entrepreneur, a keynote speaker and an author, and her name is Laurie Guest. She is a go-to resource for customer service excellence for brands and organizations of all shapes and sizes. For more than two decades, Laurie has shared her practical point of view on customer service and staff development with audiences and companies all over. She blends her real-life examples with proven action steps for improvement. Her latest book, The Ten Cent Decision – How Small Change Pays Off Big, presents her most sought after and impactful strategies to find and retain the best staff and the highest quality customers while delivering exceptional guest experiences. She is without question one of the most creative and entertaining speakers I have ever met, which makes it no surprise then that last summer Laurie was inducted into the professional speakers hall of fame. Please welcome my friend and colleague Laurie Guest. Hey Laurie.

Laurie:

Hey, great to be here, Joe. Thanks for the invite.

Joe:

I’m so glad we, we were able to make this happen. We have talked before about having you on the show. We are being much more intentional now and having a lot more guests. And how could I not have a Guest as a guest?

Laurie:

Yeah, I haven’t heard that joke before, have I?

Joe:

I was gonna <laugh> and, and that’s like, for me, when people say, Hey, are you gonna mull it over?

Laurie:

Yeah, exactly. You just politely smile and say, oh, how clever of you?

Joe:

Right. Well, thank you for, for placating me on that. I really appreciate it. Well, I am so glad that you’re here today for a variety of reasons. Let me start by asking you this. How does someone get into this kind of work as their career? How, tell us the story of how you got into the work related to teaching people how to get better at service excellence.

Laurie:

All right. Well, that was actually two different questions cuz the first one is how do people get in? Yes. And the answer is it all depends. Some people will climb a mountain or they will become famous for something. And then bam, people wanna pay ’em to talk. But for somebody like me who did not do anything like that, mine was a little bit of a slower trail. So I had a background in healthcare and the place where I worked for almost 20 years was known for its customer service. So we were an ophthalmology and surgery center and we were so good at what we did. We had a patient one time tell us that he wished he had a third eye, so he could have surgery again.

Joe:

What?

Laurie:

That’s how much fun he had. Yeah. Do you know how good you have to be at customer service to have a guy wishing he is walking around with a third eye <laugh> Right? <Laugh> so eventually other industries came knocking and asking, Hey, what are your secrets? And I was working for Dr. Neil Ross at the time and he looked at me and he goes, Laurie, you like to talk, you go. And so I started putting together what I considered our secrets, the things that we were doing that maybe other practices were not. And over time I got better and better at sharing those secrets and eventually found out that this was actually a career. That I could leave my healthcare job and I could help people worldwide really learn how to not only treat people better, but put more money in their pocket, regardless of what kind of product or service they had. And I love this job. I just absolutely love this career. And here I am. So that’s the shortest story possible. There is a long version, but today we’ll go with the short version.

Joe:

No, that’s great. But you, you, you dropped a tantalizing little nugget in there that I absolutely have to follow up on, which is we were so extraordinary at customer service that our customers wanted a third eye and so I took our secrets and taught others our secrets. So can you share some of those secrets with us? What made you so good that people wanted additional eyes?

Laurie:

Well, I think that knowing what your product is and being good at it, in this case eye surgery, that’s a given. We had to be good at that. And I feel that a lot of organizations spend a lot of time on what I’m gonna call the product. They spend a lot of time making sure what their deliverables are, are good. But we spent equal amount of time developing people. And sometimes you hear ’em called soft skills and people kind of roll their eyes. Ah, you know, one of these is just soft skills, roll eyes. I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s where the magic is at. And so when I wrote the book, The Ten Cent Decision, this is kind of the metaphor I use for this. Joe, if you and I are walking down the street and you see a dime laying there, you may or may not bend over and pick it up because let’s be honest, it’s just a thin dime. It, it really doesn’t make that big of impact. So you and I both might just step over, well, I wouldn’t, I would bend over and pick it up. And the reason is, is because if we start stacking the dimes and we roll them into a sheet of paper and throw them in a pillow case, they become a weapon. Huh? See, it’s when they’re stackable that they have power and customer service is the same way. So when we teach people, okay, you’re gonna look somebody in the eye, you’re gonna smile. You’re gonna greet them. That’s all important. That’s customer service 101. We’ve all heard it. It’s the bare minimum of, of what we expect, but that’s really just a thin dime. It’s when we start stacking all the ideas that it becomes impactful. And so some of our ideas were very, very simple. And so your question to me is how were we different? We thought beyond the product and we looked at every single moment of exchange with our patient from the time they called, to when they arrived. You know, every step along. And, and now with, with the internet, we need to think about that. What’s that first impression. So every step along the way had to be the very best it could be in all ways. And that’s what we start to break down in the book and in the interviews I give is talking about some of those.

Joe:

So what are the opportunities to create those moments now where people may not be paying much attention to? Where, where like, so this two-part question, I guess. You called me out on my two-part question the first time.

Laurie:

I did. You’re good at two-part.

Joe:

I am, I’m a, sometimes I ask three questions and call it one. Guilty is charged. Right.

Laurie:

All right. Fair.

Joe:

Um and now I forgot the second one. So why don’t we just answer <laugh> why don’t we just answer the first one? What are the moments that people aren’t paying attention to, or maybe just take for granted that we could be paying more attention to in order to start stacking those dimes?

Laurie:

Right. I think the biggest place to pay attention is when we are using explanations and words that the receiver doesn’t understand. So those are things like our internal lingo or one thing that I always look at is signage. You know, you and I travel for a living. How often do you land in an airport where it makes sense that there should be gigantic signs telling you where to go and you’re searching and searching for, okay. Where do the Ubers pick up? And, and what elevator do I have to take to get to where baggage claim is? These are the types of things that we all encounter. And I don’t understand why somebody who runs that airport doesn’t walk through with what we call free eyes, brand new free eyes, meaning you aren’t locked into the way it’s been before. And so that’s a very simple example that comes off the top of my head is let’s look for those little things that you don’t think about because you’re used to your system.

Joe:

And I know that you actually do this kind of work for organizations, right? You come in as a set of fresh eyes and you go through, move through their customer experience, almost like a kind of secret shopper. Do I have that right?

Laurie:

You do have that, right? What a hoot of a job.

Joe:

Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about that. What are the kinds of things that people have become blind to? What are the kinds of examples that you give them of places where there’s an opportunity to get better? And they go, oh, I’ve never thought about that.

Laurie:

Yeah. For about 15 years, we’ve had a division of my company that does secret shopping. So people hire us to pretend to be a patient, a patron, a client, a customer. And it’s fantastic because I get to pretend to be, it’s almost like being an actress. Right. I get to pretend to be whatever it is we’ve decided I’m going to pretend to be. So whether that is hands on keyboard to shop their site, usually it’s by telephone. And then sometimes they do pay us to come in and visit in person. So I’m gonna use the most common one, which is the telephone version.

Joe:

Sure.

Laurie:

Is that, first of all, we have people on the other end who are rushing because they’ve got another ringing line or they’ve got customers or patients that are on the other side of the counter waiting. And so in their mind rush, rush, rush.

Joe:

Yeah.

Laurie:

But in my mind, as the caller, I deserve that undivided attention. I deserve a pace at which I can understand what’s going on. And even sometimes when they answer the phone, they will rattle off five different names. And then how can I help you? And it’s going by so fast. I don’t feel like my call was welcome, or maybe I’m not even sure I have the right place. So I’m talking the nitty gritty basics here when I secret shop. How long does it take? How many times does the phone ring before you pick up? How well do you transfer? Is it a seamless transition or is it a whole place and wham I’m on call and then the next person who, or excuse me on hold. And the next person who picks up says, how can I help you? And I have to start all over again.

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

So we actually have a 32 point audit we do. 32 things we look at. Now, don’t ask me to rattle off what they are.

Joe:

I won’t.

Laurie:

Thank you. But they’re all written down and we just go right down the line, checking on each one of those things. And so it was fun coming up with the 32 points, cuz it goes a lot deeper than you might think.

Joe:

Every single person listening to this has had the experience where they’ve called somebody and they’ve shared their story. And they think to themselves, I really hope I don’t have to get into all this again. And now this person gets what my problem is. They get what I need. They’re gonna help me. And then they say, let me transfer you. And the only worse version of the story that you told where I’ve gotta start all over is when they transfer you and you get disconnected. And, and then you have to call back and say I was just getting transferred and it didn’t work. Right? Like everyone listening to this everyone’s stomach just clenched. Cuz we’ve been there. We’ve been through that.

Laurie:

Yes. I’m pretty even-tempered. I really don’t get mad-mad very often.

Joe:

Yeah.

Laurie:

And that is one place where I lose my cool so fast that I’ll be like, please promise me that when you are transferring me, I do not have to start over again. And I get kind of lippy with them because I get so mad about that. And yet I know on the other end we have the ability to make it better. And that’s the interesting thing about our work is that to make it better. And in your case to boss better, there are some very logical things to do. But knowing and doing are two different things, don’t you think?

Joe:

Absolutely. And I, you alluded to something a minute ago that I think is, is important to make explicit, which is, for example, you talked about the rushing, like if I’m answering the phone and I’m rushing through that call in addition to maybe not understanding, as a customer, I’ve suddenly been made to feel like a burden. And if I’m made to feel like a burden, I’m not coming back, I’m not telling other people that I, that you should go there. So that rushing doesn’t just cost in terms of the quality of service in the moment it’s costing me, future business, future revenue, future clients, all because of the rushing. And so I know from a, a boss’s perspective, sometimes we might hesitate to stop that person later, pull them aside and say, Hey, you’re getting this part right, I just need you to slow down by 20% because it’s costing us something on the back end. Are those the kinds of things that you are challenging leaders to do? Are there other aspects of those kinds of interactions that you try to shine a light on?

Laurie:

Yeah, absolutely. And what’s interesting is the person who’s rushing, I want to assume it’s because on the other end of the phone, there’s three more patients waiting.

Joe:

That’s right.

Laurie:

I’m using healthcare just because that’s what I have in my head As I’m talking about this, but customer, whatever you call your end user. And I also don’t care for it, I could criticize them on the other end, if three people have been waiting in line and you keep picking up the ringing phone. I’m not happy when I’m standing there watching you do that either. Quick story. One time I was doing this a evaluation with a cardiologist’s office and I was sitting next to the receptionist while she was continuing to not check people in and keep taking call after call. And I see this man he’s maybe about fourth or fifth in line young man. And I see him getting more and more and more agitated. All of a sudden, I see him take out the cell phone. I’m assuming he’s gonna call somebody to complain. And instead her phone rings, she picks it up. He goes, yeah, I’m the fifth one in line back here trying to check in. He realized that he could circumvent the system by calling in. And so that was an eyeopener to me. Is that here I am, telling ’em slow down. Take your time with the caller, but there’s always the other side of the dime. There’s always the other side.

Joe:

Yeah.

Laurie:

And we as good leaders have to be managing both of those sides. So in answer to your question, yes, I might pull her aside and coach her differently, but I gotta remember that fifth guy in line too. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, we’ve gotta balance both, not an easy job.

Joe:

And that balance has to exist across leadership too, because everyone who has been answering a call and they see the blinking lights on the phone, there’s three other lines ringing. I’ve got three people, five people deep in front of me behind the window. And the physician walks by and says. Why are people waiting? We gotta move this along. Let’s go. We gotta respond faster. Because a lot of folks, folks who are a little higher up on the org chart are gonna prioritize efficiency. Are gonna prioritize speed. And sometimes it comes at the expense of service. And so I guess my, my question that I’m ramping up to here for you is where is the line between I have, I need to slow down versus we have a staffing issue because we’re not able to give enough time and attention to the blinking lights with the number of people that we have to provide the level of service that we should? Do you understand what I’m asking?

Laurie:

The question and I’ll take it one step further in the example that I’m talking about with the cardiologist’s office, my solution to them was the same one we’d used in our clinic, separate the process. It’s not necessarily add another receptionist. It might be add another person to the staff, but don’t add another receptionist instead, separate the process.

Joe:

Mm.

Laurie:

So let’s make the phone ring in a different room behind a wall. Let’s have the incoming calls being handled in a different way so that the meet and greet and the check in cuz she’s the same person that’s trying to check out, confirm insurance information, let’s not blow through that, right? And so we need, she has…she or he, has responsibilities at that counter that are vital to how these dominoes are gonna flow through the rest of the, of the practice. And again, I don’t wanna make it just be about healthcare. I know that we have lots of different industries where the process, right? We look at the people, the process, the productivity, and it may be that we’re, we’ve got too much going on at one station. And that’s in this case, what I told them the solution was don’t add another body to the front, add another body and put it somewhere else.

Joe:

You flashed a memory for me. My first job in high school was at Pizza Hut and they moved the phone from the front counter where people were coming to pick up pizzas where people were, were coming up to pay their check. If they ate in the dining room where the waiters and waitresses are running back and forth and people are cutting pizzas there to box up. They moved the phone into a side room so that it was the delivery room and all the calls for delivery came in there. And that’s a separate thing. Right. Okay. What’s your address? Do we deliver there? Does the driver know where that’s at? And that exact scenario that you just described that process improved when they took that call and they put it in a different spot.

Laurie:

And I think that that is worthy of unpacking that thought as people are listening to this, not only for this example, but the entire process, and that’s one of the things we look at when we secret shop from the time that we first connect with you till all the way to the completion of the service and if there’s invoicing and payments that are due later, that whole system, does it make sense? Or is it something that developed over time? It made sense when your volume was at X, but now your volume is at Y. So you Joe, you and I, as entrepreneurs, the system we’re using today to efficiently run our business is not the same as the first year that we were emerging speakers, right? That’s not the same system. And if we had not changed our system along, along the way, we would not be able to continue to grow and to serve more people. The system has to change with the growth.

Joe:

And I’m gonna just piggyback right off of that because it’s something that I have to remember to continue to get better at is the more time the more experienced and the more people you have involved in the operation, the farther removed the senior leaders get from those processes and systems. And so it’s, it shouldn’t be left up, to go back to the healthcare example, to the doctor, to decide what the, the new system should be or the improvements that are needed. We gotta go to the boots on the ground and say, because of the chair that you sit in, you know more about this than anybody else here. So you are the expert. We need you to tell us how we can improve, how we can get more efficient, where we can save time and space, but where we can also create a better experience for people and then really be open to listening to that.

Laurie:

Mm-Hmm <affirmative> exactly. There is an exercise that I do at some of my keynotes that’s called a blue towel exercise. And I won’t go through the long explanation of why it’s called that or what we’re doing. But the, at the end of the result of why we’re doing this exercise is that process improvement is on the front lines.

Joe:

Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Laurie:

It’s the people, just like you said, boots on the ground, in the trenches. They have some of the best ideas when we allow them to ask the question, in what ways can we?

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

We’ve been doing it this way, but in what ways can we do this differently? And once we allow them to share those ideas, I have been amazed at every single session where you will see the leaders, you’ll see the CEO pop his or her eye open, like, whoa, why didn’t we ever do that before? Right? Wheels on suitcases. Why did it take decades, decades, decades to put wheels on suitcases. <Laugh> That’s a great idea. And it’s that type of thing where I see a light bulb go off and then to watch them implement it and, and see either cost go down or productivity go up or happiness factor. All of that plays into how well we can serve our customers. So it’s really fun to watch those blue towels pop up. I have two clients right now that have started blue towel committees and their job is to go out and identify these blue towels that I talk about. And it’s so fun to get feedback from them and everyone should be looking for those opportunities. There’s more than people think.

Joe:

And we know, and we talk about that a lot, this a lot around here, you activate emotional and psychological commitment when you give people influence. And if you invite people to share their voice, to speak up, they share an idea. Then that idea gets praised. That idea gets implemented. That idea has a positive impact. You’re actually moving up through these emotional and psychological stages of cultivating loyalty and commitment. So it’s such a phenomenal, the return on investment that you get as a leader from inviting those conversations and inviting that input. It, it, it can’t be quantified.

Laurie:

Absolutely. One of my all-time favorite examples, I think it’s in my book, s a matter of fact, I love this so much. Every year we would do a cost-cutting campaign at the place where I used to work. And everybody could throw in ideas of either how we can be more productive or decrease cost. And our purchasing agent made the suggestion that we switch from C fold, paper towels to Z fold. Okay. So a C fold, it lays open and the sides fold in. So it looks like a C. Yeah. And when you pull that out of the silver containers that are up on the wall, you usually get four or five at the same time.

Joe:

Right.

Laurie:

Now, keep in mind. We’re seeing a hundred patients a day doing 20 surgeries a day, fully staffed with a hundred and some odd people we’re using a lot of paper towels. Right?

Joe:

Sure.

Laurie:

He said that by simply changing the order code, the cost was exactly the same switch from a C to a Z fold. That’s where it comes out of the machine. Sort of like a click click. It comes out one at a time. She estimated that we would save almost $2,000 in a year.

Joe:

Wow.

Laurie:

And have no difference in our patient care. No difference in the happiness of the doctors or the staff. No difference in anything. Now that seems like a no-brainer right. We had to get nine surgeons to agree. <Laugh> we could change the fold of the towel.

Joe:

Did they?

Laurie:

They did it!

Joe:

Okay.

Laurie:

Yeah, they did. But it took a long time to convince them. And the reason I bring it up is they liked the way it already existed.

Joe:

Yeah.

Laurie:

Yeah. We had to show them with numbers and I will tell people all the time, don’t speak with feeling. Speak with fact.

Joe:

Yes.

Laurie:

Fact over feeling. So let’s say for example, Joe, you’re my boss. Let’s imagine that for a moment. Okay. <laugh> you’re my boss and I come to you and I say, I really think if we switch from C fold to Z fold, that’d be a good thing. That’s a feeling statement. And you might go, yeah, Laurie, we’ve been doing it this way. Ever since I started my business, I don’t wanna change. But if I come and I say, Hey boss, I think that if we switch to these folds, I think we can save you almost two grand a year with no difference to you. What do you think? That’s fact. I can show you the numbers and show you how much easier it is. And all of a sudden you’re like, yeah, absolutely. Two grand is two grand.

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

So, so talk in fact, not feelings.

Joe:

Love it. Great example. Well, I’m gonna ask you in just a few minutes about busting out of service fatigue, which I know so many folks are struggling with, which you’re gonna be a part of our BossBetter Virtual Summit and talking about that.

Joe:

But first we’ve gotta pause or our Camaraderie Question of the Week. Yes. This is our Camaraderie Question of the Week theme music. This is my jam. The Camaraderie Question of the Week is a question that we give our listeners every week that they can use at meetings to facilitate connection and build camaraderie. We know that bosses build camaraderie on teams by helping employees find things in common with one another. And Laurie, I love this question that you and I are gonna answer today. Full disclosure. I did call Laurie this morning and say, Hey, heads up, I’m dropping this question in your lap during the podcast today. I want to give you a chance to think about it because I, I think it’s a really fun question. So, okay. So here’s the question. You can have an unlimited supply of any one product for the rest of your life, but for use only not resale, what do you choose? You’ve had approximately like five hours to think about this. Laurie, what are you going with?

Laurie:

Well, for some reason I had it in my head. We were talking about food. I was very hungry when you called me. So I guess I had food in mind. And because if I had an unlimited supply of any product for only my own use, I want cheese . <Laugh> Because, but I have a reason why I’m saying it. It comes in. You’re not, you didn’t give me any other rules. So I’m thinking with cheese, that’s generic enough a statement that there are hundreds of different kinds.

Joe:

Okay.

Laurie:

Right. So I could have all kinds. I could have variety. And I like almost every kind. So I wouldn’t be bored. Right. So that’s how, but then when you ask me the question, just now I’m thinking, oh, he said product. He didn’t say food. So maybe my answer would be different, but I still love cheese. So I’ll stick with that.

Joe:

Well, and I have this picture in my head of like a cheese vending machine in your house that never runs out. And there’s like a, a touch screen on the front where you can literally touch the, but hit the button to get any cheese you want. And that’s actually great value because some good cheeses are pretty pricey. So I feel like it’s a pretty solid answer.

Laurie:

It is. And you can cut it different. Let’s shred. It let’s cube. It let’s slice it. Let’s I mean, now check back with me in a year and see if I can fit it into my clothes. But still I think I think cheese going down would be great.

Joe:

Is there a top on the top line of our touch screen for your endless cheese machine? Is there a particular kind of cheese that sits there cuz it’s a favorite?

Laurie:

I’m I’m a Brie gal. I like my Brie.

Joe:

All right.

Laurie:

Right next to the wine machine. That would be my second choice.

Joe:

Okay.

Laurie:

Now we’re talking!

Joe:

Well that’s, that’s the second product, but you only got one. You went with cheese first. It tells us a little bit about your priorities and I respect it.

Laurie:

Yes. That was a fun question.

Joe:

Oh, thank you. I, I was thinking about this. I feel like there’s probably a brilliant answer to this question that I haven’t thought of yet. My answer and I feel like I’m skirting the rules a little bit here because I’m not sure if this is a product, but my answer was first class airline tickets. I feel like if you could have an unlimited supply of any product, not for resale, but just for use first class airline tickets to go anywhere I want with anybody. I want whenever I want. There’s great value there. Talk about saving some money, right? Talk about being able to lavish, you know, some gifts and experiences on those you love. I feel like first class airline tickets is a good answer. What do you think?

Laurie:

Well, I think that there’s something to be said for even the cost of comfort. I, I used to fly coach, cuz it seemed like the smart thing to do for me and or my client. And now I’m like, if there is a little bit extra wiggle room, that’s the first thing I’m spluging on. I flew first class home yesterday from an engagement and I just felt so comfortable.

Joe:

Yeah.

Laurie:

Except my husband was back in coach and the guy sitting next to me made me feel guilty about it. <Laugh> He’s like ‘What? Your husband’s in coach?’ I said he doesn’t care. He goes no I’m trading with him. It’s right before takeoff. I said, please don’t do that. That’ll really embarrass him. He’s settled. He’s fine. He goes, well, why are you up here without him? And I said, well, I’m the frequent flyer. I got the free upgrade so I’m taking it.

Joe:

You got the bump.

Laurie:

I got the bump. So I think your answer’s pretty good to that.

Joe:

I just had the whole first class value conversation with a friend of mine who flew first class on a long trip for the first time recently. And I was explaining to him that when I go to buy a ticket, I will actually take a minute and do the math based on hours. So if I’m looking at a ticket and it’s like $300 more to fly first class or even $500 more in, in the business, I might think about that because in my head I’m going okay, I’m on the plane for grand, total of six and a half, seven hours each way. So that’s 14 hours. So I’m gonna take that $500. I’m gonna divide it into my 14 hours and I’m gonna go, huh? Is it worth it to me to spend like $39 an hour to have a bigger seat? Yeah. To have like you get some food there, you get some drinks there. Yeah. Like there’s, there are some times when, if you do the math that way and I’m answering with feelings, not facts. I mean I’m answering with facts, not feelings.

Laurie:

Mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Joe:

I can convince myself and my boss to let me buy that first class ticket.

Laurie:

That’s how I justify the Admiral’s Club. It’s X amount of dollars per year.

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

And I think to myself, if I’m gonna fly and I’m every time I go to the airport, I’m buying at least a cup of coffee.

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

And usually a meal or a snack, sometimes two, depending on how long I’m there.

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

I average that out. I’m gonna spend less at the club than I am if I’m buying those things a la cart. We justify when we want it bad enough.

Joe:

That’s that’s true. And if you’ve ever had to travel a lot, like we do, and you find yourself doing long layovers in the airport, the lounges are a difference maker. No doubt.

Laurie:

They are a big difference maker. And to bring us back full circle, I would ask the listeners, what’s the difference maker for your end user? Because there could be a difference maker that you haven’t even thought of. First thing that pops in my head is right now we’ve entered an era where curbside attention is very common now.

Joe:

Yes.

Laurie:

Right. Grocery stores. And I remember our library switched to curbside when you couldn’t go in.

Joe:

Oh, wow. Yeah.

Laurie:

And then you would order ahead of time what books you want and they’d bring it out to the curb. And I remember thinking a smart library should have started offering that a decade ago.

Joe:

Right.

Laurie:

For all the moms that have sleeping babies. Yeah. For all the people who physically struggle to get into the library. I mean, I think now is a time to be looking at what is the difference maker. And I think we’d come up with a lot of interesting questions or excuse me, interesting answers.

Joe:

I love it. And that is the Camaraderie Question of the Week.

Joe:

All right. I gotta ask you about busting out of service fatigue. And there’s a little backstory here because I know we’re, we’re, we’ve been connected for a while. We’re colleagues. We’re friends. And a couple of months ago you started writing and publishing a lot online about busting out of service fatigue, and how so many people-facing roles, people in people-facing roles, have endured horrific customer experiences or just the relentless breakneck pace of having to be in service to people in their role month after month after month in the middle of what has probably been the hardest two years of our professional lives.

Laurie:

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>.

Joe:

How do you bust out a service fatigue, Laurie? How do we help our teams who are so exhausted that they just stopped caring? Where do we start?

Laurie:

Well, that is a great question. I am still studying and learning and asking. And what has been interesting to me is in front of my audiences, I’m starting this conversation basically. Exactly what you just said. I’m saying to audiences, if you, if your teams are experiencing service fatigue, and before I even finish my sentence, they’re all nodding their heads in agreement. I haven’t even finished the thought and they’re like, we’re there with you, man. I mean, you can see it. I, I would say to them, I wanna hear from you, what are you experiencing? What are your people experiencing? And have you found any solutions cuz I’m currently, I know what the issues are. I don’t think I have enough solutions yet. And what’s been interesting to me is immediately people are coming up and, and they’re, I’ve got ideas contact me and they get very enthusiastic when they’ve hit on something.

Joe:

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>.

Laurie:

So the answers, I think to the question is, is that we have to acknowledge where the fatigue is coming from. Because it might be different for every organization. I’ll explain that in a second. So we have to identify what is causing the fatigue and then do we have specific resources to help and not just platitudes and you know, hang in there and tomorrow will be another day, you know, what do we call those platitudes? Whatever it is, we need real resources things they can do. So that’s my two-part answer here. The first part, where is it coming from? I think the number one place that’s coming is that for whatever the reason is, and I’m sure somebody’s doing a study on this somewhere. I think the public has lost its civility.

Joe:

Yes.

Laurie:

I think that people were holed up for a long time and I’ve always said that anger and fear are cousin emotions.

Joe:

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>.

Laurie:

We don’t like to show fear, right? We’re animals. Animals don’t like to be afraid. They don’t like to show fear. So we come out of the gate showing anger.

Joe:

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>.

Laurie:

Right. And we used to teach that to our staff. If you’ve got a patient who’s being very angry with you for a reason, you don’t really understand if in your head you can start thinking, what might they be afraid of, afraid of losing their vision. They don’t have enough money to pay. Are they gonna live alone? Are they, you know, they’ve got a series of things going on in their mind. And when we switch that in our head to, they must be afraid rather than they’re really mad at us. It changes the way you treat them. You want to figuratively put your arm around them and comfort them and help them. And that’s what I think is happening with the public is that there’s a lot of fear, right? Fear of health, of disease of, I think financial fear of the I could go on and on. Right. But they’re afraid of something. So they’re coming out of their homes with more. Let me tell you how it is. And now we’re experiencing this as providers of service we’re getting hit. So that’s one example of where some of the, the hits coming. But here’s another, those same people that, that you’re calling forward-facing.

Joe:

Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Laurie:

Who are asked to step in up and deal with the people coming out of their homes and treating us this way. Guess what? Our people had to come out of their homes too.

Joe:

Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Laurie:

So you have people working for you who had trouble finding childcare perhaps, or they had to homeschool for a year and now they’re afraid their child is behind. Or this was a staggering thought to me. I have a friend who has a small has a child who has actually never been socialized.

Joe:

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>.

Laurie:

Cause she was born right before all of what started. She’s coming out on the back end. Like what, two and a half, three years old. She’s never been to a birthday party. She’s never been to a family gathering.

Joe:

Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Laurie:

So she’s coming out socially different than children. We start. I mean, how early did you take your kids out? Six weeks, right? You’re taking ’em somewhere and that this generation that’s just coming into to life here. Didn’t get that. We’re gonna see the ripple effect of this for a long time. So you’ve got staff, that’s experiencing their challenges at home, and now they’re supposed to leave ’em at the doorstep and just be ready to take on the pressure of the people lacking civility. It’s a lot, it’s a big ask.

Joe:

Absolutely. And I love the first thing that you said, which is I’m constantly studying this because there is no single right answer. Right? It’s it’s disingenuous of us to suggest that if you just do this one thing, this is a problem that’s gonna get solved. There are complicated forces at work here. And so inviting our own teams to do what it sounds like you’re doing with your audience, which is let’s put our heads together and not just come up with ways that we can better respond when we have some of this problematic behavior that we encounter. But let’s have a deeper conversation about the, the, the influences on people and how do we access? How do we tap into our empathy? So in that moment we don’t take it so personally, when we’ve got that person who’s exploding or, or who is, is experiencing those really intense emotions. Or, you know, when we feel disrespected by how someone else has shown up, I like the phrase give them capes. I talk to bosses a lot about how can you turn your person at that customer-facing position into the hero? How can you give them the hero’s mindset so that they can sit across from that person and think what happened to this person in the hour or the day or the week before I saw them? I I’m gonna, I’m gonna choose to feel so much sympathy or empathy for whatever it was that caused them to go through so much that at this moment they showed up in front of a person that they don’t know and had what I’m gonna assume is a really out-of-character outburst. How can I be the light at the end of the tunnel for them in that moment? How can I be the hero with a cape on for them in that moment? And that requires time, doesn’t it? It requires a leader taking time, pulling people aside, and kind of planting the seeds of that kind of thinking that kind of mindset, doesn’t it?

Laurie:

It absolutely does. And I think that the two-part thing here is that we have things we can control inside our businesses that we, as the leaders, can make adjustments to. And then there’s also things outside our control. And that’s when the coping mechanisms kick in. So one of my examples that comes to mind of a thing that I am absolutely sure is a good tool, a good resource for fighting service fatigue is to reestablish strong boundaries.

Joe:

Yes.

Laurie:

Reestablish strong boundaries. So for example, I was working with a large medical clinic down in Florida, and I was with the leadership team, all top level, including the CEO, and we were having a conversation about boundaries and the CEO surprised me was the opposite way I thought she was gonna be, she says right away, I am so good with respecting boundaries. And I expect what I mean by that is if you’re done working at 5:00 PM, you’re done working at 5:00 PM. That’s what I’m referring to as these types of boundaries. Sure. And she said, I asked my team to do the same thing. And I look around at the horse shoe of leaders and they’re all nodding their head. They’re backing this lady up that she does do that. She turns off her phone at five o’clock or at least doesn’t look at it after five o’clock. And she expects everybody to do the same thing. And then I glance over and there’s a clinical manager and she’s kind of doing the sheepish. She’s dropping her head and she has this look of guilty. And so I call her out, cause it was appropriate in this situation, I’ll call her K. And I said, so K, you’re dropping your head. What’s up with that? And she goes, I am so guilty of this. And I said to her, so you don’t turn off your phone. She and the CEO jumps straight back in and says, no, she’s sending me emails at two o’clock in the morning that I’m gonna get when I wake up. And I said, tell me why. So I’ll ask you, Joe, why do you think that somebody like, K, who’s been given permission by her boss to respect a boundary and be off the clock when you’re off the clock, but she chooses not to do it. What would you guess is her reasoning?

Joe:

Oh, there, I have this conversation a lot with leaders. So I’ve heard a lot of different stories, right? One story is I can’t sleep and I like to work late and I find it comforting. Another story is I’m drowning. And it’s the only way for me to stay on top of things. Another story is I like having a clean slate when I come in in the morning. And so I’m gonna just knock out a couple of things at night. There are lots of versions of the story. Did I land on one of the ones you heard?

Laurie:

You did, you did. And those are the types of things that most people would say. And they’re all valid. This lady answered with, I think was the most honest answer I’ve ever heard. And I plan to write a whole chapter just about her when I’m ready to dig into this writing. And she said, I do it because I don’t think I can be blamed or criticized for falling short If I’ve worked this hard.

Joe:

Wow.

Laurie:

In other words, it’s her defense mechanism.

Joe:

Mm-hmm, <affirmative>.

Laurie:

Nobody at the table is thinking that of her. She’s thinking that of herself, she’s using it as armor. That defense. It’s the same reason as people say, sorry for everything when they don’t need to, you know, why are you saying, sorry to me. Nothing’s, there’s nothing for you to apologize for.

Joe:

It’s the noise inside their head. Yep.

Laurie:

It’s the noise inside their head. And so in her mind, if she’s up at two o’clock in the morning sending an email, it’s because there’s no way I can be in trouble for not working hard enough. That’s the phrase she used. There’s no way I can be in trouble for not working hard enough. So that tells me…

Joe:

It’s the dedication defense. It’s how I, how I demonstrate that I am dedicated. Yep.

Laurie:

Yes. Now let’s go one step further, take another layer. If that’s how she feels. Do I, as her boss have some responsibility in that? Does that mean I’m not praising her enough? Does it mean that I make her feel that she is in trouble?

Joe:

Right.

Laurie:

Like, was she conditioned at another job that way?

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

Because at this job, K, when you leave at five o’clock, whatever you’ve been able to accomplish, we’re good. And if at some point we’re not, we’ll reestablish what these boundaries are, but until further notice, you are not in trouble for this. And that’s the conversation of setting that boundary.

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

That I think is a great place for people to start to start to lift some fatigue. Cause she’s creating her own fatigue. If she’s up at 2:00 AM worrying about this. Of course she’s fatigued.

Joe:

Yeah.

Laurie:

Literally.

Joe:

Yep.

Laurie:

She didn’t get enough rest.

Joe:

Absolutely. Well, you’ve teed me up to ask the, the last question that I wanna make sure we make some time for today. You are, you have graciously agreed to be one of the keynote speakers for our Boss Better Virtual Summit on Tuesday, June 7th. And you’re gonna be talking about this. You’re gonna be talking about busting out of service fatigue. So give us a little flavor of what leaders are going to be better equipped to do after we hear from you at this event.

Laurie:

So my plan is to give six and I gave you a little preview now. So they kinda have one of the six already, but the six things, the specific actions you can take to break out of the service fatigue, six ways to get the team back in the game. And because they’re short interviews, it’s gonna go fast. It’s gonna be really dig down quickly, make you think about it. And some things people might think are common sense. Well, yeah, that makes sense. If I was making a list of six, but I think there’s at least two of the six that might surprise even you Mr. Mull.

Joe:

Ooh. Well, that’s a tantilizing little detail there. I think I’m gonna come to this event. I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna come and I’m gonna listen. I think I I’m, I’m gonna commit. I’m gonna commit right now to being at my Boss Better Virtual Summit.

Laurie:

<Laugh> I’m counting on you. I love it.

Joe:

Well, folks who are listening as we’ve shared before you can get tickets for 50% off right now, by going to BossBetterVirtualSummit.com and using the code PODCAST. All one word PODCAST at BossBetterVirtualSummit.com. You’re gonna get to hear from me. You’re gonna get to hear from Laurie. You’ll get to ask Laurie questions as part of this session. So don’t wait BossBetterVirtualSummit.com and get your tickets. Now, Laurie, if folks wanna follow you, get in touch, learn more from you. What’s the best way for them to do so?

Laurie:

Website has everything you need. It’s my name .com actually LaurieGuest.com. Easy to find. We have a store there of products and all kinds of resources. Check out the blog because there’s some preview items there as well.

Joe:

And it’s LaurieGuest.com. LaurieGuest.com. Laurie, my friend. Thank you so much. You packed this with so much insight and wisdom and so many practical tips. I’m really grateful. Thank you for being here with us today. All right, folks, that’s our show this week. If you get a moment, make sure you click that subscribe button. That way all of our episodes will be delivered poof right to your phone or your other internet machine. Every single time a new episode is released in the meantime. Thank you for listening and thank you, BossHeroes for all that you do to care for so many.

Jamie:

This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Remember commitment comes from better bosses. Visit JoeMull.com today.

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