Training Helps Staff Avoid 'Whoops!' Moments

Research illustrates the importance of planning for success.

December 24, 2012

Last evening I made a purchase at a department store. As I checked out, the very young cashier had an embarrassing moment. “I am very sorry to have to ask you this,” she said, “but I really need to know: Are you 55 or older? There is a discount…”

I am nowhere near the 55 mark. My extremely youthful countenance, I perceived, left me obviously ineligible. Plus, I was not buying orthopedic shoes.

I was surprised and amused at the unfolding social faux pas. I raised an eyebrow during the requisite moment of awkward silence, meeting her gaze. “Ah, no,” I defensively assured, wickedly enjoying her growing discomfort. “However, may I accept the senior discount now that it has been offered?”

“Well…I really can’t do that…” she stammered. “It’s only for old people…” Things were going from bad to worse.

Management perhaps created a difficult situation with this nice albeit sensitive perk and could have prevented the faux pas. Proper training may have prevented the “whoops” moment.

The clerk did not know how to have this difficult conversation; no signs advertised the benefit. Further, there was no contingency plan to respond to unexpected consumer demands or unanticipated service problems.

Might your employees face similar issues? How can you mitigate pitfalls?

Planning is key: Know your members, your staff, and your environment to be ever ready in your service interactions.

Epic fail?

Consumer sentiment influences decisions, but bad news can be a good thing. See “Five Ways Negative Reviews Are Good For Business” from Small Business Trends.

This article focuses on online reviews and summarizes the pluses to be gained from minuses:

Further evidence that problems can be productive is found in the Inc. article, “A Conflict-Free Organization Isn’t Great. It’s Near Death.”

Survey results reveal managers dread conflict as “57% of managers reported that ‘inaction’ was their organization’s main method of conflict resolution, and cited ‘avoidance’ as a regular course of action.”

Avoiding problems won’t resolve them. A Roffey Park survey mentions the costs associated with unresolved conflict, such as absenteeism, strained relationships, turnover, and lost productivity.

When we are aware of problems we can solve them and improve—but it takes training. Avoidance of problems checks growth and leads to higher costs.

Potential for service conflicts exist with checking accounts, according “Banking on Arbitration: Big Banks, Consumers, and Checking Account Dispute Resolution." “Research shows that dispute resolution limitations, such as mandatory binding arbitration clauses, are common in checking account agreements. Many consumers, however, are unaware that these terms could restrict their options.”

Dispute clauses of the 100 largest financial institutions are examined, along with consumer attitudes about the requirements. “Almost nine in 10 consumers disapprove of the procedural components of arbitration, but half of consumers also support the overall goal…to be a simpler, less costly alternative to court.”

Don’t fail to plan

Fail to plan or plan to fail? Research illustrates the importance of planning for success.

The prevalence of cloud computing requires those in the financial services industry take note. See “How Banks Can Select a Reliable Cloud Computing Provider” from the Houston Business Journal for specific success tips.

Look for potential providers to have experience in the financial industry, secure data centers, 24/7 support, and security of all network components.

Your members need to plan for their long-term care needs, according to the Insured Retirement Institute in “The Long-Term Care Challenge: Developing a Plan Can Lead to Greater Confidence.” This report examines consumer costs and confidence in meeting long-term care needs.

Can you help members with this part of their financial plan? “Working with an advisor does have positive effects on confidence levels regarding long-term care costs.”

This confidence declines with age, and “confidence in meeting long-term care costs is lowest for women, those making less than $30,000, and those not married.”

Consumer planning for health care costs also is addressed in “Consumer Directed Plans and Health Care Costs” by Rand Health. “Advocates of consumer-directed health plans contend that consumers…will have a greater incentive to make prudent, cost-conscious decisions about using health care… Critics, however, have voiced concerns that consumers lack the information necessary to reduce spending without also reducing quality of care.”

This study compares consumers’ experiences before and after adoption of such plans, looking at claims and enrollment data. “The analysis shows clear cost reductions, but with potential areas of concern for the long-term health of enrollees.”

This report will be of interest to both consumers and employers who are concerned about the escalating costs of health care.

Health care costs are important considerations for consumers as “Modest Pay Increases [are] the New Normal,” reports Employee Benefits News. “Employees may be getting modest pay increases but are also being asked to contribute more to their health care benefits.”

This trend is expected to continue as employers seek to control health benefit costs. Compensation surveys indicate “the median salary increase in 2013 will be 3%,” although smaller companies may be more conservative. Compensation survey data is summarized.

Once gaffes are committed, damage control may be needed. But advance planning can eliminate problems.

In my shopping example, a more difficult customer may have demanded the discount or asked to speak to a supervisor. I desired neither option, however, and merely enjoyed the fact that the salesperson and I shared a “teachable moment.”

She will likely work on her tactful delivery, and I know my self-perception may not be that of others.

Arm your staff with training, anticipate problems before they arise, and have a plan in place to deal with the inevitable embarrassing moment.

Discretion is the better part of valor—but prevention is the best medicine.






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.