These days it seems that SOP is that, rather than giving me another number to call (thus handing me back my problem), organizations are more carefully handing customers off to those who can solve problems… “I’m sorry Mr. Neary, you need to speak with someone in the mutual funds department, please hold… hi Joe, I have Mr. Neary on the line, he needs you to help him with his mutual fund account… you should have his information on the screen… I know that you can solve his problem.”
Hand offs are far superior to hand backs.
An organization in pursuit of superior customer service should adopt a no hand backs policy. No matter what, once a customer (student, parishioner, patient, constituent, influencer, etc.) presents you with a problem, you don’t get to give it back to the customer. It is either yours to solve, or you need to thoroughly hand off the problem to a colleague. No hand backs, only hand offs.
This approach could help fix some common misconceptions including:
- Customers understand and appreciate the fine lines of delineation that exist in our organizational structures. If I were a bank employee, for example, I might better understand why the mutual fund representative can’t answer questions about a money market account… but I’m not an employee and all the problems, as well as all the various customer service representatives, look the same to me. We can’t expect our customers to be all that skilled in navigating our bureaucracies.
- Getting involved in another department’s work is the unpardonable sin. I think that most people most of the time do hand backs not because they are uncaring or lazy, but because they are afraid to touch another department’s business. Once the problem is solved, the customer will likely go merrily along their way… but I have to work with Joe in accounting for ever! For the sake of our customers, and ultimately for the sake of our organizations, we need to get over our fascination/fear of our organizational structures.
- It is bad form to dump problems on others. I get that; we call them wet babies in my office. If we hand back, we might be able to do so anonymously; hand offs tend to implicate us in the problem. Again, we need to get over ourselves. Besides… if we do a good job of handing off, helping to identify the problem and getting good communication going, we are already more a part of the solution than part of the problem.
This is all pretty rudimentary stuff, I know, but it seems pretty important.
I’m thinking about making a no hand backs rule in the organizations that I have a part in leading. Think it will work?