The Benefits of Lean and Continuous Improvement for Municipalities

The Benefits of Lean and Continuous Improvement for Municipalities

By simplifying working practices and minimizing inefficiencies, continuous improvement (CI) techniques enable municipal organizations to save money and increase quality, without reducing the level of service offered to citizens. Leading Edge Group provide Lean training programs and improvement consultancy support, specifically designed for municipalities, empowering staff at all levels to apply Lean methodologies with immediate effect.

In our video, Lean for Municipalities expert, Callie Woodward, explores the relevance of Lean/continuous improvement for municipal organizations and the benefits that can be achieved through effective deployment.

We hope it helps with your continuous improvement planning and activities.

You can watch the video here.

Where in-depth support is required, a Lean for Municipalities expert can work with organizations to lead the effective deployment of continuous improvement strategy and tactics. Our consultancy services offer strategy, processes and tools to implement sustainable change and deliver measurable results.

We work with staff at all levels and functions of the organization, from City Managers to front-line staff. We’ve helped both large and small municipalities across Canada with their Continuous Improvement efforts.

Training options that are suitable for staff at all levels, across all functions of the municipality and training workshops for those who have a leading or strategic role to play in continuous improvement.

If you would like to discuss the benefits of Lean/CI and key success factors in more detail, please feel free to contact us using the details below.

Contact Name: John Whelton, VP North American Operations

Telephone: +1 (416) 637 5074

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://www.leadingedgegroup.com/

Fax: +1 (647) 748 3722

Address: 60 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 805, Toronto, ON M4T 1N5

 

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Cyber Attacks & Municipalities: A Tale of Two Communities

“There are only two types of companies: Those that have been hacked, and those that will be.”, 

Robert Mueller, FBI Director, 2012

Executive Summary

In 2018, many municipalities in North America fell victim to cyber-attacks, and in particular ransomware. This study reviews two municipalities, Atlanta, Georgia, and Wasaga Beach, ON whom both were impacted as a result of a malicious attack on their networks.

Atlanta

Atlanta (pop. 486 000) was hit in March 2018 with a cyber-attack through ransomware. A ransom of $51 000USD was demanded but not paid. Over the next few days, critical systems and activities were taken offline as city staff struggled to regain access to systems. Impact included:

·       Public Wi-Fi disabled

·       30 mission critical applications disabled

·       8 000 employees were unable to access their email or networks for days

·       Citizens were unable to pay fines or parking tickets

·       Forms had to be completed by hand as systems restored

·       Many official documents were not recoverable

Final tally was close to $10 Million, including costs for additional contractors, system upgrades, new technology and computer replacement.

Wasaga Beach

Wasaga Beach (pop. 21 000) was hit in April 2018 with a similar type of ransomware attack. Initial demand for close to $150000 was reduced to  $35 000 and paid by the municipality. Despite this, the town was impacted for weeks even with recovery efforts. 

Impacts included:

  • Government data inaccessible for weeks
  • Systems had to be re-imaged and rebuilt
  • Payroll systems hampered

Final tally close to $252 000, including $50 000 for consulting,  $160 000 for lost productivity and overtime, system upgrades, new technology and computer replacement. Some costs carried into 2019 Budget Year.

How to be Prepared in Your Municipality

While Atlanta and Wasaga Beach are different sizes, they both suffered similar negative impacts due to a malicious attack, and having inadequate preparation for the type of attack that hit each separately.

Being prepared begins with a proper security risk assessment and review of the security practices and processes currently in place. Assessments should typically review such areas as:

  • Technology in place for security controls
  • Policies and standards related to Information Security
  • Training and awareness in place with staff
  • Incident Response plans
  • Disaster Recovery Plans 

Municipalities should also consider:

  • Training for IT staff on cybersecurity
  • Cyber Insurance
  • Testing and training of staff on cybersecurity issues
  • Use of third parties with cyber specialization to complement skillset of internal team.

Conclusion

Cyber Attacks can be indiscriminate and attack all levels of companies including municipalities large and small. However they can also target municipalities, due to limited IT budgets, strained technical resources and small if any dedicated security personnel.

Municipalities should take proactive measures to prepare for cyber-attacks and reduce the impact and likelihood of financial costs and loss of services.

“The effectiveness of one’s security program belongs to those who see the possibilities
before they become obvious.”, 
Michael Castro, 2018

RiskAware is a boutique Cybersecurity firm, specializing in Security Governance and Strategy, assisting organizations of all sizes with security and risk advisory services and security-on-demand capabilities.

RiskAware can be contacted at [email protected] or visited at www.riskaware.ca

 

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Exclusive Opportunty for muniSERV Professionals Only!

You know muniSERV is a powerful online platform that helps consultants/professionals and municipal service providers showcase themselves directly to municipal decision-makers. Your muniSERV professional membership includes an SEO optimized professional profile with access to exclusive and targeted marketing to municipal clients. We help you build your reputability and visibility within Canadian municipalities to grow your business.

Now, muniSERV.ca and the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) are happy to announce the development of a Members in Transition Toolkit to help Canadian CAO members in transition access the information and professional services they need as they navigate their way through transition.

Our partnership with CAMA provides an exclusive and unique opportunity for your muniSERV professional profile to link directly to the CAMA Members in Transition Toolkit on their website – and to those CAMA members in transition who need your professional services. Participating in this special category increases your opportunity to build your practice/business locally and across Canada.

We are now looking for the following professionals from each province to provide specific services for inclusion in the toolkit: 

  • Employment Lawyers (who represent employees)
  • Financial Planners/Accounting Planning/Taxation Advisors
  • HR Advisors/Career/Transition Counsellors/Life Coaches
  • Recruiters/Executive Recruitment Firms/Head Hunters
  • Pension Advisors
  • Messaging/Communication Experts
  • Psychiatrists/Counsellors/Therapists
  • Business Coaches

How can you participate in the special transition/career services category?

muniSERV Members: If you’re already a muniSERV professional member, you’re all set. All you need to do is go to your dashboard and add the new, special Transition/Career Services in the “Build Membership Package” section.

New muniSERV Members:

  • Become a muniSERV member today to create your profile in your dashboard
  • Start appearing in searches in the Find Municipal Experts & Services database right away and get a Free Members Only rotating ad (value of $120) for your first month of membership.
  • Go to your dashboard in the “Build Membership Package” section and add the special “Transition/Career Services” category to your cart. 
  • Then select as many subcategories as you like in “Manage my Profile”
  • Membership and participation in the Transition/Career Services category is just $489/year. And, if you’re a CAMA member or sponsor, you pay only $460 annually.

*muniSERV is pleased to share the revenue from this special category with CAMA to support their members and future projects.

Click Here to get started or Contact us [email protected] for more information.

 

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Improving Citizen service through disciplined issue management

When interacting with the people you serve, what is the single most important activity that you can do to make them feel more positively about you? Listen to what they are saying, and remember it.

There is a lot of buzz surrounding citizen engagement and how best to inform your constituents. Should we be sending out newsletters? Creating a targeted email campaigns? Blogging on our current initiatives, creating a Facebook page – maybe we need a hashtag #IssueOfTheDay?

As we have talked to residents however, one thing is become clear; more than being informed, citizens want to be heard. This takes many forms, but in principle, it all comes down some very basic tenets;

  • They want to feel like what they are saying is being listened to and will be taken seriously
  • They want to know that their issues have been recorded accurately,
  • They want to understand the process of how they will be addressed,
  • They want transparency

As a way to better serve your citizens, here are a few simple recommendations to help deliver the kind of responsive service that leads to improved citizen satisfaction and builds trust in government.

1. Record and track everything

  • We understand that each complaint or service request needs to be prioritized against our other activities and resource constraints. To the citizen however, if they are bringing it to you, it is because it is important to them and it needs to be respected as such. The easiest way to achieve this is to record every single citizen complaint, issue and service request and communicate your progress with it.

2. Provide access to information to the entire team

  • When you share information effectively and everyone is kept up-to-date, you convey a message that the issue was important, and that you are competent in your ability to respond. If you can record issues so that they can easily be viewed by all staff, then when citizen inquires about progress in the future, the entire team can provide them with a status update. In this way, any interaction with a citizen can be informed with the issues that are important to them.

3. Ensure you close the loop

  • When you have completed your actions, don’t forget to share the work that was done. Public notifications are important, but if you are able to extend this to include direct confirmation, the impact is considerably stronger. Making it as personalized as possible supports your goal to make them feel that they have been treated as an individual. The objective of this final interaction is to ensure the citizen is aware that you listened and did your best to find a satisfactory resolution. Even with those unfortunate cases where nothing could be done, an email confirming that it was evaluated with an explanation of the rational behind your decision can limit their frustration.

4. Be open and transparent (with data to back it up)

  • With the right tracking system, a quantitative report can be created that highlights the issues and service requests that were received in the previous month and the actions taken. This is a potent method to articulate the work you are doing for your citizens. Including the resolution times can be an effective tool for validation of service levels against those required by the municipal act within your province/state. For example, if you are accountable to fix a pothole within 12 days of it being reported, and you are able demonstrate that 90% of the time you are able to respond in 7 days or less, you have a means to show that you are working above the required standard. And remember, a regular and accessible report can also increase public support to buy new equipment or to hire a additional staff to speedup/improve service delivery.

SO HOW DO I START??

If you are on-board with the belief that the simplest path to citizen satisfaction is based on improved intake, tracking and progress reporting, your first step should be ensuring you have the systems in place that allow you to do this. Too often “engagement” equates to outreach (i.e. speaking) instead of issue tracking and reporting (i.e. listening) .

We built AccessE11 to support both. We built a system to listen, react, respond and inform. It is cost effective, simple to use and can be implemented in the time it takes to enjoy a coffee, or read this blog.

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The Ontario Regional Government Review and How It Affects You

A lot has changed since the mid-1970s. That’s how long it has been since Ontario’s regional municipalities were established. Since then populations have grown, infrastructure needs have greatly changed and your tax dollars are being stretched further than ever. That’s why the province is reviewing the governance, decision-making, and service delivery functions of 8 regional municipalities and Simcoe County in their current Regional Government Review. Find out more about the review, the municipalities that are covered and how you can have your say in the process.

 

Who is Involved?

Led by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Ontario government is reviewing 8 regional municipalities (Durham, Halton, Muskoka District, Niagara, Oxford County, Peel, Waterloo, York), Simcoe County, and their lower-tier municipalities. In total, 82 upper and lower-tier municipalities are included in the review. The review is led by Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark with 2 special advisors appointed as an advisory body to help with this review, Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn. The special advisors will be out in the communities and available for discussions with appointed and elected officials, concerned parties and local citizens.

 

What is Being Reviewed?

The main focus of the review is to help ensure that these municipalities are working effectively and efficiently, and can continue to provide the vital services that communities depend on.

The review aims to create efficient and effective governance, decision-making and service delivery throughout the province. As municipalities grow and evolve, so do their specific needs. There will be obvious financial concerns, from the allocation of service responsibilities to identifying opportunities for cost-saving measures. The existing governing model will be reviewed to make sure that the distribution and election/appointment of councillors properly represents residents. The decision-making process will also be under scrutiny at all levels.

 

How Can You Have Your Say?

The province of Ontario is looking for input from the people who live, work and spend time in the municipalities covered by the review. Residents, businesses and municipal partners are all invited to share their thoughts on what is working well and what they feel can be improved or streamlined. The deadline to complete the online survey is April 23, 2019. Written submissions can also be sent via email or by Canada Post. Further details, submission guidelines and privacy policy can be found here

 

When Will Changes Be Seen?

Findings from the public consultation, as well as recommendations from the advisors, are expected early this summer. Individual municipalities could start seeing changes in the following months.

 

____________________________________________________________________________

 

muniSERV is Canada’s leading online solution for helping municipalities and professionals connect.

We help municipalities save time and money searching for the consultants & CAOs they need while offering professionals the opportunity to showcase their profile and services to get found and grow their business.

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Five Ways to Celebrate Your Women Leaders (or – What a Girl Wants)

The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter, a call for action that asks employers around the world to take a new and closer look at how their employee culture celebrates success and nurtures leadership in the women in their employ.

What is #BalanceforBetter all about?

This year’s campaign is focused in on, as you probably guessed, gender “balance,” with the aim of having success become balanced across gender lines.

“Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage …

Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”

https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Theme

How balanced are we now?

The good news, is that we’re doing better and better. Here’s some encouraging pieces of information:

  1. In the wake of an Ontario Municipal Election that saw an increase in women running (27% of candidates) AND elected to council seats, we have a measurable achievement toward balance that is worth celebrating!
  2. The even better news is that Municipal government can bring women and their voices to the table in other powerful ways – both by applying a gender lens to community engagement and by looking within at how we engage and support our female employees.
  3. The best news of all is that 84% of respondents said that their company supports women in leadership, and the same percentage say their company culture allows women to succeed.

Let’s talk about #3 for a second.

Women are reporting that their company supports and allows women to succeed, but the reality is still that significantly more men are sitting in powerful leadership positions than are women; Just 8.5% of the highest-paid positions in Canada’s top 100 listed companies are held by women. So what’s going on?

At the core, the problem is this: we’re expecting women to act like men in the workforce.

Organizations have a hard time recognizing leadership potential in women, women play full-out to “not fail” as opposed to “winning” and often express dissenting views in more diplomatic and therefore less impactful ways.

What a girl wants

As leaders in our communities, municipal offices have the opportunity (and responsibility) to set the standard for supporting women in leadership.

So what do women want? Luckily, we already know!

A 2017 KPMG study asked women to rate the most important aspects of supporting and preparing women to pursue leadership roles. Here’s what their top 5 results were:

  • leadership training (57%)
  • confidence-building (56%)
  • decision-making (48%)
  • networking (47%)
  • critical-thinking (46%)

In KPMG’s 2019 study, women leaders were asked what they most needed from their employers:

  • More training opportunities (41 percent)
  • Encouraging mentorship (33 percent)
  • More flexibility for employees to be able to take risks (28 percent)

Our key takeaway from these studies?

Leadership and confidence development are the missing elements that can hold women back from seeking and securing advancement.

So where do we start?

Many organizations have done away with generic gifts such as that set of four glasses, logo etched desk items or the standardized framed photo in favour of personalized “Thank You’s” based on the interests of the recipient. Employees, in turn, feel more respected and valued when they receive something that they actually want.

So how can we identify the best recognition ‘gift’ for those willing to take on additional responsibilities or a new role?

KPMG just told us.

In the spirit of #BalanceforBetter, here are 5 fabulous, empowering ways to celebrate your women leaders!

1.  Review what you do to promote your female staff members from within.

Organizations around the world are struggling with this key metric of success: leadership development. A good place to start is by looking inside your municipality for those people with the top factors in leadership potential—those traits or attributes that make them the best people for the job.

According to Egon Zehnder, the first factor is having the right motivation: a commitment to working as a team to move the municipality forward. The other 5 predictors are:

  • Curiosity
  • Insight
  • Engagement
  • Determination
  • Inclusiveness

It can be easy to get distracted from focusing on leadership potential, and instead to promote people who have been there the longest, who work the hardest, or who are daring enough to ask for it. These things make a great employee, but not necessarily a great leader.

Personalize this gift:

Develop an individualized plan of personal and professional development for those you identify that are strong in 3 or more of those factors.

This can be as formal as a path or growth map developed in your HR system, that measures results orientation, strategic orientation, collaboration and influence, team leadership, developing organizational capabilities, change leadership, and market understanding. 

Or, it may be as informal as consciously bringing those candidates into discussion (“We are playing with this idea and would love your feedback.”), or sharing opportunities more proactively (“This training is available and I think it would be very rewarding for you.”).

2. Help your women achieve the mindset and communication and leadership skills that allow them to advance with confidence and resilience.

Consistently, we have seen that women need to evolve their own leadership style and develop skills that support their advancement. The reality is that this is true of men, too, we just do a better job of supporting and validating their natural leadership style.

Women often have a harder time advocating for themselves and asking for their voice to be heard. They’re more likely to want to hear what everyone else has to say, and to want to find and create solutions that feel like a positive and effective compromise.

To help them to nurture their strengths, and build new ones, municipalities can provide powerful leadership trainings. In doing so, we’re not only helping our leaders develop stronger leadership skills, we’re subtly telling women that we value and respect their unique leadership styles.

Personalize this gift: 

Offer training in a range of key leadership and communication skills – so that women can increase their ability to be heard, express and defend their opinions, and make an impact.

3. Bring confidence-building workshops into the workplace through lunch-and-learns

Workshops or lunch-and-learns allow your people to grow where they are, alongside their co-workers, so that integrating these new skills into the workplace is more natural and comfortable. This can also allow you to establish better opportunities for networking and discussion among employees, and create a general shift in workplace culture.

Personalize this gift:

Build in some connection time so that women can explore and develop their understanding, build relationships and practice selling their ideas in a small group, lower stakes environment.

4. Institute formal mentoring, coaching and support systems

By formalizing a system of mentorship, mentoring becomes not only accepted, but expected. This could include assigning a mentor to an up-and-coming woman leader, building mentoring into the work schedule and designating an office or meeting space for mentoring.

In this way, not only can experience and history be shared, but through mentorship, we are able to reduce the fear of failure, combat Imposter Syndrome, and add perspective to the risk-taking that is inherent to advancement. These are all big ticket issues for many women wishing they could take on a bigger, more impactful role.

Personalize the gift:

Do some match-making to select the right mentor and train both mentor and mentee to understand how this relationship works. You may even want to facilitate a mastermind in your workplace or in your community.

5. Schedule in recognition and celebration

All this isn’t to say that recognition and thank yous are passé or somehow no longer of value! It’s absolutely still a powerful way of supporting your employees. If you don’t already have a system for recognizing your employees’ success and victories, consider scheduling in celebrations of your women leader’s achievements through your intranet or internal newsletter and at meetings.

Personalize this gift:

Work to identify key qualities, actions and attitudes that led to that success to inform and inspire the leader herself, as well as others who look to her as a role model. The more specific and clear we make our praise, the more valuable and inspiring it is.

Don’t forget…

Just as we all benefit from gender balance, so can both genders benefit from these suggestions. Men and women alike flourish in the context of appropriate promotions backed by training, mentorship, and recognition.

As we strive for #BalanceforBetter, everyone benefits.

(And, of course, you can still have cake on International Women’s Day!)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Guest Author: Cher Cunningham

Cher is a Leadership Confidence Coach who helps individuals transition into leadership roles by banishing anxiety, building confidence and resilience, and through communications, media, and presentation skills training. She offers a range of Workshops, Virtual Lunch and Learns, Speaking Engagements and group or 1:1 Leadership Confidence Coaching.

Find out more about how Cher supports women leaders at http://chercunningham.com.

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Video – The Benefits of Lean and Continuous Improvement for Municipalities

 

By simplifying working practices and minimizing inefficiencies, continuous improvement (CI) techniques enable municipal organizations to save money and increase quality, without reducing the level of service offered to citizens. Leading Edge Group provide Lean training programs and improvement consultancy support, specifically designed for municipalities, empowering staff at all levels to apply Lean methodologies with immediate effect.

In our video, Lean for Municipalities expert, Callie Woodward, explores the relevance of Lean/continuous improvement for municipal organizations and the benefits that can be achieved through effective deployment.

We hope it helps with your continuous improvement planning and activities.

You can watch the video here.

Where in-depth support is required, a Lean for Municipalities expert can work with organizations to lead the effective deployment of continuous improvement strategy and tactics. Our consultancy services offer strategy, processes and tools to implement sustainable change and deliver measurable results.

We work with staff at all levels and functions of the organization, from City Managers to front-line staff. We’ve helped both large and small municipalities across Canada with their Continuous Improvement efforts.

Training options that are suitable for staff at all levels, across all functions of the municipality and training workshops for those who have a leading or strategic role to play in continuous improvement.

If you would like to discuss the benefits of Lean/CI and key success factors in more detail, please feel free to contact us using the details below.

Contact Name: John Whelton, VP North American Operations

Telephone: +1 (416) 637 5074

Email: [email protected]

Website: https://www.leadingedgegroup.com/

Fax: +1 (647) 748 3722

Address: 60 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 805, Toronto, ON M4T 1N5

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Hardiness and Resilience: When Giving In Can Give Us a Lift

Resistance versus resiliance

When you experience failure, loss, or a serious setback do you see it as temporary or permanent? Is failure an event or who you are? Is it a learning or crushing experience? Does it traumatize you or become a springboard for growth?

Confucius said, “our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” That’s the thinking behind Japan’s Daruma Doll, a good luck charm with a rounded bottom. When knocked down, it bounces right back upright.

We tend to think of unwavering steadfastness and never-say-die persistence as important leadership qualities. To a point, they are. But resilience in the face of the hurricane-force winds of change is as often about being flexible like a palm tree rather than unbending like an oak.

Like so much of life, it’s about balance. W.C. Fields was on to something about resilience when he quipped, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.” Sometimes the wisest thing to do is to let it storm, find shelter, and look for an alternate route to our dream. Maybe it wasn’t even the right dream; we may need to accept what the universe is trying to tell us and reset our destination.

Psychologists Gregory Miller and Carsten Wrosch contrasted and studied people who are relentless and unbending and people who accept and flex with life’s twists and turns. They found that flexible people were much healthier than their steadfast counterparts. Stress levels were quite a bit lower, and a protein indicating bodily inflammation linked to diabetes and heart disease was much lower. The flexible, resilient group was able to bounce back more effectively from serious defeats, less likely to dwell on the past, set new goals, and get on with their lives.

Professor, social psychologist, and positive psychology researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, has found,

“resilient people are the ones who bend without breaking and who eventually bounce back from even the most difficult life challenges. Instinctually, they can see some form of light in the darkness they face. In study after study, my collaborators and I find that it is precisely this infusion of positive emotions into negative emotional terrain that drives resilient people to bounce back.”

How we use the F-word (failure) has a major impact on our personal, team, and organizational effectiveness. Failures are inevitable. Suffering is optional.

_________________________________________________________

For over three decades, Jim Clemmer’s keynote presentations, workshops, management team retreats, seven bestselling books, articles, and blog have helped hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The Clemmer Group is the Canadian strategic partner of Zenger Folkman, an award-winning firm best known for its unique evidence-driven, strengths-based system for developing extraordinary leaders and demonstrating the performance impact they have on organizations.

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DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MARCH 15TH FOR APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2019 CAMA CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIPS

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MARCH 15TH FOR APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2019 CAMA CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIPS – FOR CAMA MEMBERS

2019 Conference Scholarships
In recognition of the importance of promoting professional development opportunities for members, the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators established the CAMA Scholarship Program. Through the Scholarship Program, CAMA will provide six scholarships for the registration fee (in the amount of $725.00) for the 2019 Annual Conference (two to young professionals pursuing a career in local government; two to members working in municipalities located north of the 60th parallel; and two to members from smaller municipalities). Individuals are only eligible to receive a scholarship once to provide an opportunity to others to access this scholarship. The scholarship is not transferable and must be used in the same year that it was awarded. For further details and an application form please visit the CAMA website.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Ms. Jennifer Goodine, CAMA Executive Director at 1-866-771-2262 if you have any questions.

Bourse de la conférence
Pour souligner l’importance de promouvoir les occasions de perfectionnement professionnel offertes à ses membres, l’Association canadienne des administrateurs municipaux a créé le programme de bourses de l’ACAM. Par l’entremise de ce programme l’ACAM offre six bourses (valeur de 725 $) pour couvrir les frais d’inscription à la conférence annuelle 2019 selon le principe suivant : deux à des jeunes professionnels faisant carrière dans l’administration municipale; deux à des membres travaillant dans des municipalités situées au nord du 60e parallèle; deux à des membres de petites municipalités. Nos membres sont admissibles une seule fois à cette bourse de manière à ce que les autres aient la possibilité de la recevoir. La bourse n’est pas transférable et doit être utilisée dans la même année où elle a été décernée. Pour obtenir des renseignements et accéder au formulaire de demande, voir le site web de l’ACAM.

N’hésitez pas à communiquer avec Mme Jennifer Goodine, directrice générale de l’ACAM au 1 866-771-2262.

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Approaching Customer Service with a Beginner’s Mind

As a Customer Service consultant, I have listened to years’ worth of customer service interactions.  I have heard thousands of service representatives ply their trade and hone their skills.  I have compared the rates of success of tenured reps with those of their inexperienced colleagues, and I have noticed that the most effective reps are the beginners.  Or, to be more exact, the reps who approach their work with the beginner’s mind.  

A beginner’s mind is open and aware, ready to experience new things.  A beginner’s mind approaches tasks and events without the baggage of preconceptions, seeks out new information, sees things with fresh eyes, and hears things for the first time.  This mindset helps customer service Reps avoid assumptions, build a relationship with their customer, and increases the likelihood that they will come up with an outside-of-the-box solution to unusual problems.

One of the biggest pitfalls of customer service is the assumption that this interaction will be just like the one (or the ten, twenty, or one hundred) that came before it.  When the Rep starts a call with a beginner’s mind, she has no preconceptions of what is about to happen.  She is genuinely curious about the person on the other end of the line.  Who are they?  What do they need?  Are they having a good day or a bad day?  No matter what the answer, there are no disappointments for the Rep, because – as a beginner – she is not comparing it to any previous outcomes.  Her natural response is “this is interesting – what can I do to help?”

When encountering a challenging personality, the Rep with the beginner’s mind is not frustrated or defensive when the cranky customer on the other end of the line does not meet their ideal.  Instead, the Rep can see the customer from a fresh perspective as someone who is just doing their best, whose intentions are to do the right thing.  They too are struggling, just as the Rep is, and it becomes easier for the Rep to remember that both parties are working toward a positive outcome, making the win-win scenario more likely.

The beginner’s mind is ideal for problem-solving.  When approaching a complex or unusual issue, the Rep isn’t hampered by the feeling that “this isn’t what I ordinarily do,” because all options have the same weight – they are all new.  Consequently, the choice to think independently, and proactively try something that might lead to an effective and timely resolution in this specific situation, is not pushed aside by the habit of staying within one’s comfort zone.  All paths forward are judged on their own merit in the here and now, and the idea that provides a solution is much more likely to prevail. 

The beginner’s mind goes by many names.  Zen Buddhists know it as Shoshin.  Call center coaches call it “Pressing the Reset button.”  Ironically, it is often easier for experienced reps to get their arms around the concept than it is for novices.  But when we embrace the idea that everything is new, when we are totally present for our conversations and curious about how they will unfold, our interactions with our customers are transformed.  And the good news is that the beginner is in all of us, not just our CSRs.  Which leads to the question;  what would happen if a call center manager walked into work one day and looked at their facility with a beginner’s mind?  Might they see a workspace that can be brightened?  Processes that can be streamlined? A corporate culture that can be lifted?  It’s a brand-new world out there.  All we have to do is see it.  

By,

Sharon Oatway
President & Chief Experience Officer
VereQuest Incorporated
416-362-6777 Ext. 222 (Business)
647-268-5389 (Mobile)
www.verequest.com

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