Turn frustrating utility staff meetings into foundation for improved customer service

Phoenix, AZ, Mar. 16, 2006 — One of the best ways for utilities to build value with customers is to build value with their staff. Staff meetings, those get togethers that often drive people crazy, are a good place to start.

“How utility employees are treated on the job is a model for how the company can expect them to treat the utility’s customers,” says David Saxby, president of Phoenix based Measure-X, a company that specializes in helping utilities improve their customer service and sales. “Staff meetings typically have a bad reputation for being nonproductive time wasters. But staff meetings can be a great way to improve office communication and, ultimately, boost customer satisfaction.”

Saxby outlines the following tips on how to turn staff meetings into a foundation for better customer service:

Punctuality. Respect everyone’s busy schedule by making sure meetings start and end on time, Saxby says.

No interruptions. Incoming phone calls should be forwarded to voice mail or to another person in the company. “This includes cell phones,” Saxby notes. “It’s incredibly disrespectful to be more focused on your cell phone than on those present in the room.”

No titles or privileges. At an effective staff meeting, everyone is equal. “Each meeting should have a designated leader who is responsible for creating an atmosphere of openness and frankness,” Saxby recommends. “Rotate the job so everyone takes a turn.”

No hanging back, no monopolizing. Participation in the staff meeting is not optional and people who tend to talk too much should be encouraged to listen, Saxby says.

Written agenda. Always have a written agenda to give the meeting focus and to help the staff track any problems they are trying to solve, Saxby suggests.

Open talk about issues. “Elicit the thoughts and feelings of every staff member about issues of the day,” Saxby says. “Every person should be valued.”

No offensiveness, no defensiveness. Employees should not be allowed to attack or be self protecting. “This effort is supported by not allowing a meeting to degenerate into a complaint session,” Saxby notes.

Facilitator support. Employees should support the facilitator by following the meeting’s rules and by being respectful of everyone in attendance, Saxby says.

Leadership training. Offer opportunities for employees to broaden their skills. “If you’re tired of always being the one in charge, then delegate that responsibility,” Saxby recommends. “Being a mentor is a powerful demonstration of a quality leader.”

Communication skills. Emphasize strong communication skills by encouraging everyone to speak and write clearly, Saxby says.

Humor. “Encourage humor,” Saxby notes. “Use humor to offset the intensity of staff meetings.”

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