Here I am, once again, incredibly frustrated and very irritated I got disconnected from the Internet last week Friday, as I blew up my monthly data allowance on my mobile phone for the zillionth time over the course of last few weeks. I got a bit tired of asking friends to use their wifi again and again, so I could continue with my day to day work routines, never mind as well embarrassing myself showing up at a local coffee shop time and time again while the monthly bill keeps getting more and more expensive with all of the additional beverages. Oh well, one more week to go… Indeed, one more week to go before Movistar finally shares some mercy upon myself and decides to treat this customer with some decency by hooking up both my landline and ADSL connection after nearly 2.5 months of much anticipated wait. I just can’t count the days anymore…
Indeed, I just can’t count the days after having endured such level of sheer incompetence and utterly appalling customer service while earlier on today I had a chance to reflect and muse on a conversation I had with a very good friend of mine, back at the beginning of 2014, as I was just getting started with my new adventure as an independent advisor around Social Business and Digital Transformation where we talked, rather extensively, about what it is like being a freelancer in today’s more complex than ever working environment.
I trust his judgement quite a bit, since he has been a freelancer himself in the IT industry for over 35 years and still going strong, so when we, finally, had a chance to talk through Skype, I knew it was going to be a rather intense, massively entertaining, hugely enlightening and incredibly helpful learning experience. And, boy, it surely was! We talked about lots of things about what to expect and what not, about what may work and what may not. We talked extensively of what it is like living in this brave new world of uncertainty and make the most out of it, but if there was a single point of discussion I truly cherished (even to today) as one of my key learning highlights from 2014 was the subject of who my new boss would be from there onwards, now I was no longer a salaried employee at a large big corporation.
We had a good laugh when, as we got started with that conversation, I mentioned to him how in my last project with my former employer at one point I had up to 11 different management lines before I could reach out to the top, that is, the CEO of the company. And of those 11 different bosses I often found myself having to report to several chains of command to keep them in the loop of what I was doing for my day to day work. Never mind how things would have been much much different if they themselves would have been working out loud, narrating their work (just as I was!), instead of being stuck in their own email Inboxes. Oh well, that’s a story for another blog post coming up on the incredibly inspiring and rather refreshing egalitarian power of social networking tools in helping knowledge workers ignore the hierarchy, flatten the organisation in order to get work done more effectively.
The thing is this good friend of mine mentioned how, despite the uncertainty that will be now part of my daily life, plenty of things will become a lot simpler in terms of figuring out who my new boss may well be from there onwards. The only one I would need to pay attention to. A surprising and rather refreshing change even, because, in his words, my new boss as a freelancer and independent advisor is no longer my organisation, whatever that may well be, as the traditional hierarchy disappears into thin air since that artificial construct is no longer needed, nor relevant. My new boss is not going to be my fellow peers / colleagues / social networks or what not, not even perhaps the so-called influencers in the market, vendors, analysts, business partners and whatever other groupings, but, eventually, and right to the heart of the matter, my boss would be the one and only to care for and delight to no end: my customer(s).
Wise words, indeed. Who would have thought about that, right? I mean, if you go out there and ask a few people to tell you who their boss is I bet “My customer(s)” is probably going to be the very last answer you are most likely going to hear. And yet it’s the only one that we should be caring about. The only one that matters. The one we all keep coming back to work for every morning doing what we love doing: serving our clients with a delightful experience and, of course, in a timely manner.
Right at that moment, while we were still conversing and enjoying very much the ongoing dialogue, I realised that sentiment of my customer(s) as my new boss(es) will become my new mantra ever since I went independent and I have never gone back. As a result, and almost after a year going by, I have had the enormous privilege and true honour of having worked with some pretty amazing and rather smart clients who throughout our interactions in 2014 (and beginning of this year already!) have helped me grow not only in a professional level, but also on a personal level. Who knew?
Who knew that bosses / managers could have that effect on you? Who knew that perhaps in the traditional big corporate world we may have had the wrong end of the stick all along? I mean, how many of you folks out there would consider your immediate boss today your customer and not the individual you are directly, or indirectly, reporting to? I am certain not many. The thing is that you may be thinking that since you don’t have an external job to focus on, specially if you are not in sales or marketing, you really don’t have any customers to worry about, as you may be working in internal projects. But how about if we got it all wrong right from the beginning? You see? We are all providing a service, whether internal and / or external, and as service providers everyone that we are serving then becomes our customer and therefore our new boss. Imagine if we could all get to ignore everything else and just focus on the customer as your new manager.
Well, here I am thinking what that may have been like over the course of the last 2.5 months when I first requested a service from Movistar where I wanted to transfer my already existing landline and ADSL I got contracted with them and move it to my new home place, 10 minutes away from the old one. As a service provider you would expect they would go the extra mile for their new boss to provide him with a delightful experience, don’t you think? Yet, apparently, they have been looking elsewhere, inwards, stuck in their paperwork, without resources, providing everything but a delightful client experience. More of a nightmare, if I may add. And perhaps that’s been part my fault as well for not stressing out deep enough the impact I have been suffering from their disservice, as I have no longer been able to carry on with my day to day knowledge Web work activities, losing several opportunities already of incoming revenue in the last two months and still counting…
Last week Friday I cancelled one of the many services I had contracted with Movistar for a good few years. Perhaps that’s how I should have made myself heard right from the start vs. patiently awaiting for them to look outside vs. inwards. It won’t be the last one. Currently, I am compiling the various different services I have got contracted with them and over the course of the next few days / weeks / months I will be terminating each and every one of them. I guess I will be firing them all away! I have been saying for a good while now how employee disengagement is a rather serious business problem to tackle in today’s corporate world. Mostly induced by disengaged managers, if you look deep enough into it beyond the initial marketing hype currently going on.
So when your loyal customer, i.e. your new boss, actively disengages away from you by cancelling service after service, due to your rather poor and devastating skills about proper customer service, I guess it’s time now for you to figure out what’s happening, look around, go outside, engage in a meaningful conversation where you can work harder to solve their business problem(s) and see how you may be able, perhaps, to re-engage them back. If ever. If you still care, that is.
The clock is ticking… It has been already for a good few weeks and this customer, yours truly, is just about to have enough of being your boss really, my dear Movistar. Thus, what do you think? Time for us to depart ways and move on? Well, it’s up to you… Like I said, the clock is ticking and I just might be waiting for your response to re-engage me back. You know what needs to be done and, this time around, in case you may not have noticed it, there is a deadline.
Friday, January 16th, 2015.
Written by Luis Suarez
Chief Emergineer and People Enabler. A well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.