Proper Telephone Etiquette – Sales Matter

The question of the week concerns telephone etiquette and an obnoxious co-worker . . .

I work in a 3 person office. there is one co-worker who feels she is the boss and can make changes at will because she is older and has the most seniority. However, we all hold equal positions. This co-worker has decided to answer all calls on our main line on the first ring. If the call is not for her she tells the customer in the future please call on their priviate number making the customer feel badly and apologetic. Yet we dare not do her calls that way for fear of her lashing out. Please let us know how to handle this delicate situation. (Using proper telephone etiquette).

Okay, so normally I suggest you handle things among each other and avoid getting “management” involved . . . THIS however is not one of those times. Here’s the distinction. Your co-worker is upsetting clients. If that’s true, that is very, very bad. If she’s irritating you, well, that’s too bad. but if she’s irritating clients . . . I’d fire her. Seriously, she’d get 2 reprimands and then be asked to leave. That straightforward. No joke.

Making a customer feel inferior, inadequate or otherwise uncomfortable about working with your company – that is an offense for which I have no trouble writing a pink slip – the sooner the better. Your customers create your jobs. Hers too. She needs an officer of the company to help her understand this reality. If she chooses to answer the main line on one ring, great. But she must understand appropriate protocol for directing callers to the appropriate party, pleasantly.

If I were in your shoes, I would speak with the director of HR or (if you are without a true HR – is the 3 person office the only office or are you part of a larger company?) the highest ranking officer who will listen to you with patience. If it is just the 3 of you, who owns the most of the company – that person gets to be in charge. Explain how she is answering the phones. Explain (most importantly) how customers are relating the experience to you. If the HR director or company officer is blase about the situation,

1. They don’t think it is a problem. You work for a sinking ship – get out asap.
2. They don’t believe you – you do not have credibility at your company . . . get out even faster if you value your sanity.
3. They don’t have the power to do anything about it – go higher. Find that person’s superior. The owner of the company will care.

If you can, explain the problem in terms of cash flow. Has she actually cost you additional sales on a client account? Can you quantify it? Existing clients are the easiest to gain additional sales from . . . so, anyone that interferes with growing sales among existing clients is costing your company big time. Think about it this way:

In a service practice, it may cost an average of $429 to acquire a new client. But it costs almost $0 to sell that same client the newest version, latest update, etc. So additional sales to the same account cost $429 less to acquire.

Find out the numbers for your company (your controller/CFO will know). What is your client acquisition cost? What is the sales to existing client ratio? It’s more work than sitting around complaining, but it makes you a valuable voice. Anyone who let’s an employee berate a client is a fool. She must be reprimanded. Period.

Customers are not gods, and they don’t always know best, but they do pay your bills.

(That being said, some customers are not worth keeping so if your boss doesn’t do anything, maybe the offending office mate knows how to get rid of the bad ones. It’s only a problem if she’s driving off the good ones.)

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

-Miss Mentor

Tweeters Beware

What you know can indeed hurt you. Twitter has not only coined a new verb, to tweet (tweet, tweeting) and a new noun, Tweeter, one who tweets, but also created an environment for snoops to learn far more about you than you may ever want learned….

With the crazy popularity of Twitter and Facebook, private investigators are no longer needed to dig up the goods. The Financial Times interviewed divorce attorney, Linda Lea Viken who is apparently a fan of the services.

“We used to use PIs, and occasionally got incriminating pictures. Now we just look on Facebook. It’s cheaper, and it’s usually better. Instead of getting pictures taken from outside the houses, I get pictures taken inside.”

Facebook dirt even came up on the most recent season of the Bachelorette – Justin, the crazy Wrestler dude, had told his girlfriend at home to stay off Facebook . . . apparently he had another gf on Facebook. And both ladies knew he was “chasing” Ali on the show . . . um, hello . . . red flag anyone? Anyway, when non-Facebook gf signed into the service she discovered the ruse. Justin hobbled off the show through shrubbery to avoid Ali’s wrath.
Justin into the shrubbery, 40s

If you think that private message are not admissible . . . think again. That’s why the attorneys are having a field day with social networking sites. Most of the information is super public – as in, anyone can see it at anytime – even if you have a privacy setting (“only show wall to friends,” etc.) and what is not super public requires very little work to uncover. All of it is considered admissible in court should you ever need know that….

But, you’re not worried about having an affair discovered, you’re just a regular joe or jane working to pay the bills, trying to make a good life, right?

It’s even worse for you!

HR departments are using the sites as well. If you have hopes of executive level appointments, you’d better be particularly careful. Look at what happened with Mark Hurd, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard. He was accused of misconduct and relieved of his post when it hit social sites. The fiasco started in April and agreement was reached by both sides by June without any fanfare – the Board was already well aware of the situation. But it was leaked to the media and then spread like wildfire in July. Miraculously, the Board was no longer able to see Mark as credible . . . I can’t see that Board as credible, but that’s a different bone to pick for a different day.

What you say, can and will be copied and pasted across the kingdom.

How Skinny is Too Skinny

This week’s question comes in from Texas. A reader feels picked on because of her weight . . . what is proper cubicle etiquette for dispatching inquiring minds when they get too personal? Read on,

Any time we have conversations about the corporate health contests we have at work or any other fitness/weight related topics I am regarded as very skinny.  People suggest that I need to eat more, put on more weight because I look anorexic, or like “a rail” and so on.  I am definitely not anorexic and am actually pretty high up on the body fat percentage scale.  How do I get them to stop commenting on how skinny I am?  I am not that skinny in reality.  I’m just European.

As you mention in the longer letter, most of the people you work with are 10 years older and lead sedentary lives. As a consequence of their choices they are now overweight. They realize (deep down) that they made choices that added those pounds over the years, but if everyone else looks like they do, what does it matter? In other words, in your work world, they’ve given up. No one is bringing sexy back. And, they want you to give up too.

I’ve seen this before. It is not pretty. Literally.

Since reason will NOT stop the questions and nagging, how about a little PLAY! Enjoy the attention and stir up some controversy. Do be careful of going overboard . . . you may excite the interest of undesirable loves. So the next time someone makes a comment about how skinny you are, try one of these:

Go for the absurd:
Mix 1 part current and reasonable statement, add BEING SKINNY and finish with something that will sound slightly crazy. For example,

I’m very concerned about the use of fossil fuels, BEING SKINNY makes me to be more fuel efficient.
The diner I enjoy for lunch only has small tables, BEING SKINNY allows me to sit at smaller tables.
Those public safety camera around town seem like an invasion of privacy, BEING SKINNY allows me to walk around undetected.

Jaw Dropping Excuse:
Say something totally out of left field that they wouldn’t expect to hear at work, but they can picture once you have said it. Careful, careful, there can be unintended consequences with these.

Oh, I’m just preparing to model in the Victoria’s Secret Lingerie Fashion Show.
It’s bikini season somewhere – I like to be ready when my boyfriend jets me off to a slinky beach.

What you are actually doing is providing them with an excuse, a justification if you will, of why you are skinny and need to remain skinny. Surprisingly, this works fairly well with time.

What to Avoid – the Plain Rude:

Well, Bob, I applied for the post of fat man, but you already had it . . .

As tempting as that may be on some days, just don’t do it. Keep your head held high and enjoy yourself in all your glory.

Is it Okay to Ignore a Staff Member?

Today’s question concerns office hierarchy. Is it okay to be rude?

I am an Office Coordinator, (office manager), Technical staff memeber has a visitor from the outside in.
Tech staff is going around making introductions and totally side steps me – do I have a right to feel upset and annoyed with him?  He made me feel very unimportant and worthless. –SH

I hear you SH, there is nothing more insulting than having someone who is making introductions walk right past you as though you are invisible. You have a couple of options,

1. You can get upset and proceed to sabotage future projects/deliverables/connections for the offender. You are the office manager, you probably have access to behind the scenes things….

2. You can calmly connect to the offender, face-to-face (email just won’t work here), and let him/her know that you appreciate feeling a part of the team (give an example of a time when he/she made you feel a part of the team, really stretch if you have to) and would he/she mind also introducing you to visitors so you can continue to contribute as a team member. Key word to use is appreciate. You appreciate him/her. Second key concept is to plant the idea that having you know who the visitor is will help you help the team.If you have to, approach it from the angle that the visitor may want to know who you are because you can help him/her get settled in if necessary – an extended visit for example.

3. You can rattle to HR about the offender.

So, based on amount of text alone, you can probably guess my advice, #2.

As much fun as #1 is to think about, it won’t help you. If anything it will set you into a negative passive aggressive cycle that brings everyone down. More likely it will get you fired . . . quickly.

As for #3, forget it. Yes, you can get a negative file started, but you just don’t have the pull that a more technical and or senior staff member has. The reality is that an office manager in theory is easier to replace than a technical staff member. Mind you that is IN THEORY.

I think a great office manager is gold and practically impossible to replace. You want to become that kind of office manager if you aren’t already. Really get yourself inserted into the revenue value chain – can you help the grant writers? Can you help the other staff members who are bringing in the research dollars? Get yourself valuable to the folks who actually control the incoming cash for the company.

SIDE NOTE: I recognized the company SH works for – they are a research firm that depends (Largely? Completely?) on “donated” monies. The last bit hold for everyone though, get as close to the incoming cash as possible. If you generate revenue or are vital to those who do, you become very, very hard to replace.

By the way, I am looking for an office manager. In Dallas. For real.

Office Etiquette – F-you

In this week’s grab bag we have a question about office etiquette and cursing from L.R. in Texas. She writes,

There is a no cursing policy where I work.  However, people who I work with, specifically men, who are very comfortable working with me and they trust me as a coworker, use curse words during our conversation we have at work, even if some of these conversations are not work-related.  This is an infrequent occurrence but it bothers me.  While I am grateful that my coworkers feel comfortable with me, I still don’t think that using curse words is ok at work, period.  How can I tell my coworkers casually that they need to stop?  Sometimes they happen to be my boss…  I don’t want to “scare them off” per say by being up tight all of a sudden, but I need to let them know.  Please help.

When is enough, enough? Lighting up the verbal atmosphere at the office is a sure fire way to catch heat from your superiors, but what do you do if it IS your superior? L.R. is in a common situation. How many times has a co-worker or boss said something that makes you uncomfortable? If you’re human, it’s probably happened within the past month. Curse words, racial slurs, dirty jokes all fall under the domain of poor taste.

There are a few things working against you L.R. First, words, even curse words, can’t actually kill anyone – an extreme statement, but the point is, you can’t simply say to the offender, “You’re killing me.” There’s no criminal reason to stop someone from using curse words. Second, officially you are supposed to report infractions to HR . . . and that is a big buzz kill.

But, you can let the offender know how uncomfortable you are in a subtle yet direct way . . . watch out though because this is a slippery slope straight to passive aggressive behavior on your part – not a good way for you to be perceived.

Phrases like, “Wow, that is really vulgar,” or “What would your daughter think about that?” Those allow you to be direct without saying, “Hey dude, you are gross.” You want to reflect on how offensive the WORDS are, not the person. Careful. Careful.

Plan B is to come straight out and say it – “Hey, Name of Person, I’m so glad you feel comfortable with me. Your language is harsh and distracting. Do you mind toning it down a bit?”

To this you may get one of three responses:

1. A shocked stare and then possible avoidance.

2. A Yes, I do mind reaction, at which point you have a small problem on your hands.

3. Or you may get a No, I don’t mind, and the offender will tone it down moving forward.

Many people using profanity in the workplace are unaware they are using profanity because the words are so common these days. There’s no sense getting upset about it until you have come clean with the offender to let him/her/them know that you find such language offensive. It is offensive, but most of us no longer notice it because profanity has permeated everyday life.

Stand up for yourself and your ears. If profanity bothers you, let the offender know that his words are problematic – again, focus on his words, not him.

Good luck L.R., let us know how it goes!

-Miss Mentor

Outsource Your Work from The Onion

It’s Friday. You’re antsy and a little tired from the work week. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just get someone else to do your job for you? The Onion has come up with a great idea – Outsource your job to overseas workers!

Pay someone else to do your work so you can spend more time playing sudoku. Too much brain power? Eh…then just stare. Think of all you can do with your free time….

Check out the clip here.

Is it bad that I think this is a brilliant idea?

Leave it to The Onion to come up with all the great ideas first. Many of us probably outsource our tasks on some level. I’ve been known to send out my laundry a few times – and it comes back folded!

Cubicle Zoo

Do you wonder who your coworkers most resemble? Have you considered that you sit in a cubicle zoo, not an office space?

The Cheetah: Fast, sleek, but like the name says, a cheata. This is the just a touch too slick sales guy who slips in and out of the office in record time avoiding office time with the boss. He is likely to have a gym membership and use it . . . that’s where he picks up some of his “clients.” He does enough very well and covers up the rest with such charm you never know what hits you. If you are down-to-earth, you inherently distrust him when you first meet him, but somehow you walk away thinking that you may be wrong. Nope, he’s just that smooth.

The Penguin: Loyal, formal, rounded and grounded. Every office needs a Penguin. Penguins remember what happened in the company last year and 20 years ago like it was yesterday. They are excellent for institutional knowledge. They are also not likely to go anywhere until you push them out the door. They are NOT sales people. Stable people in stable positions – accounting back office, administrative assistants . . . they are also likely to have 10 pictures of their grandchildren on their desks. You may have to request they remove excessive crayon renderings of Sponge Bob. They are usually inexpensive, hold vast quantities of institutional knowledge and are easy to keep around. May or may not be particularly effective at their stated jobs.

The Ostrich: Curious creatures, the ostrich is a funny looking zoo member. Always on the go, flitting about as though there is a great rush to get something done, yet, doesn’t manage to produce much. The ostrich constantly looks busy and hides his head when trouble approaches. Perfectly content to maintain the status quo, ostriches can not comprehend what you tell them when you ask them to do something new. It is remarkable. How they ever learned how to drive a car is beyond me. . . . They probably didn’t learn it well so avoid parking near them.

The Crocodile: Lies in wait ready to chomp you. This is the best personality to guard the CEO’s door. The Croc feeds on mammals large and small if they get too close, but isn’t trying to cause any harm. They are testy, do not poke with a stick . . . ever. This is a lousy person to be near on a cube farm. Crocodiles should be in positions with enough importance that they are away from everyone else, mostly for the safety of everyone else. Crocs are there to guard not produce.

The Python: run, run fast if you have one of these. Pythons slither about indiscriminately sucking the life out of whomever, whenever. At first you think he’s a cheetah, but cheetah only kill those who are weaker and in their way. Pythons kill for pleasure. They are slick, slippery and very, very strong. Pythons end up in positions of power because they “kill” off those above them. Unrepentant about sabotage, nothing can impede a python’s path; he knows he can choke the life out of you eventually. If you think you have a python on your staff, get him transferred away from you asap.

Your corporate board? Probably Monkeys. Scared little monkeys flinging sh*t at each other.

Victor Kipling prefers Rat, Chameleon, Peacock, Bear, Rabbit, Lion and Lemur for his assorted cubicle zoo.

Office Party Etiquette – Who you bring

Office Etiquette – the office party . . . who you bring.

This may sound a bit prudish and perhaps even anal-retentive, but you really need to know this. Follow the office party invitation instructions precisely. That means, unless it states that guests are welcome . . . Guests are NOT welcome, even your spouse who knows everybody and is looking forward to seeing them.

There are many reasons the guest list may be limited and it really isn’t for you to figure out. Just play along nicely and no one gets hurt. Sure your spouse may get his feelings hurt, but you guys can always host your own party. This is an official company function and planning decisions have been made. Respect those decisions. The consequences for disrespecting the decision may not be immediately apparent, but you will no doubt leave an impression on the internal planner of the event – who may have more sway with upper management than you imagine.

It’s kind of like a wedding. Would you show up with a guest if you weren’t “and guest”ed on the invitation? (say no, please say no!!)

Exactly (you did say no, right??)

Survey – Free Monkeys

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Please note: we will never rent, sell, splice, lease, tease or otherwise abuse the information you with us. We really want your opinion. We now have a staff writer who’s taking up the task (almost) full time so now is the time to tell us what you want.