Judging others too quickly without all the facts can lead to problems.

I was 8 years old when I told my dad that we were making fun of this kid in school. When the teacher asked us what our dad's job was, he said, “He sells rags.” We laughed so hard we almost fell down. This poor kid had the bad timing to follow the other kids who said their dad was a cop, a fireman or a doctor.

My dad said, “Don't laugh too hard. You'll learn as you grow up not to judge too quickly. I know your classmate's dad, and he's the one who drives around in a brand new Cadillac. He makes a mountain of money selling those 'rags' that all the rest of us need so badly. So, his dad is laughing all the way to the bank.”

Wow! That took all the fun out of teasing this kid.

So, how many of you judge too quickly? Let me warn you. You'd be shocked to learn how fast. I never realized how fast we judge until I read a great book titled “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” by Malcolm Gladwell. The book deals with how people make decisions. Usually our decisions are based on very little information and loaded with emotions from our life. Then, we defend these decisions by trying to find some logical explanation.

He gives this example of how fast we make decisions and then defend them with our logic (bias). The great orchestras of the land had very few women who were the featured horn players in the wind section. The general consensus from the elite group who judged them was they lacked the power to be lead.

The testing consisted of playing just a couple of notes. Funny thing was, when they made the auditions “blind” (playing behind a screen to hide identities), the women began to win their fair share of spots as featured horn players. By the way, you may think there were only men judging, but you'd be wrong. Women also were judging the women horn players and they, too, made quick judgments based on their beliefs - until they were subjected to the “blind” test.

We make snap decisions mostly as a result of being under pressure all day to move quickly. We don't choose to take the time to objectively gather the facts because we trust our gut reaction based on our own bias. Sometimes your gut reaction is OK. But most times, it has you shooting people first and asking questions later.

Get The Facts First

Does this sound familiar? A customer calls and starts yelling. Typically, there was a tech recently at his or her home and something still isn't working right. Your gut reaction is to run out of the office, find that tech and rip into him. Right? But, have you asked the tech what happened? Did you do any research about whether there was a product defect? Did you see if someone from your company has been there many times, and each time the customer refused to do the recommended work? What time have you invested to really learn what happened?

The best way to handle this type of call that puts us in the “gut-reaction” mode is to thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. Promise to get back to him or her within 48 hours with some kind of resolution. Then, use the time to gather all the facts. Talk with the technician about what happened on the call from start to finish, without being accusatory. Go through your service records and see what, if any, pattern there is on this job. Then, when you call the customer back, chances are he or she has calmed down and you can have a more productive conversation.

Want another example of using your gut to trigger a snap decision? How about your call-back rate? Try measuring your call-back ratio.

Call-back ratio is the percentage you get when you measure call-backs generated to the amount of calls a tech goes on. A good rule-of-thumb target for an individual technician and a PHC company as a whole is to have a call-back ratio of 5 percent or less. This means for every 100 calls, you'd be generating no more than five call-backs.

Traditionally, this has meant for any technical reason, such as a product defect or bad repair. My definition of a call-back includes a call from a customer for any reason. Suppose you get a call that the price you charged was too high. This is a sales call-back and the reason for the call is that the tech didn't properly build the value of what he was doing or he just did a poor job of communication. And, I believe, it's also a call-back if the tech did something operationally wrong, such as tracking mud through the house because he didn't wear shoe covers or use the mats.

Whenever you use your gut instead of measuring the objective results through collecting and posting the stats, you're headed for trouble. Here's what I recommend you do instead to be proactive and objective:

1. Decide what it is you want to improve.

2. Devise the systems, tools and processes to improve it. In devising the systems for improvement, keep in mind that people will always resist change at first. People usually resist change because they don't want to fail. Your job is to provide all of the training opportunities and coaching they will need to succeed. Decide why your staff should care by addressing their “what's-in-it-for-me” factor first.

3. Give your staff measurable statistics for each behavior and result. In business, we compete against previously established statistics - last week's numbers, last month's numbers and last year's numbers. The goal of business is to beat the previously established number. Make your measurements visible.

4. The reward and consequence process is as follows:

  • “Here's what's expected. Do this and you keep your job.” People need to know what marks they're supposed to be hitting. They want to understand how they can conduct themselves to please you and your customers.
  • “Do more, and here's what you get.” Stop hunting them down and killing them when they fail without spending more effort on hunting them down to reward them.
  • “Do less and you get coached. If you keep doing less for a specified amount of time, you're gone.” The only way to deliver to the people who are achieving is by not burdening them with the people who are not achieving.
For example:
Decide:We want to improve the call-back ratio and get it under 5 percent.

Devise: We will begin tracking how many calls are given to each tech vs. how many call-backs we get from the customer for any reason.

Measure: We will track the numbers for three months and then the techs will begin competing with the established group average.

Reward: We will reward and coach the techs based on a three-tier system of measurement. Tier 1 is a call-back ratio that's above 5 percent; this will trigger the need for additional training. Tier 2 is meeting the 5 percent goal; for doing this, we will allow them to participate in the Bonus and Spiff Program (spiff is the industry term for special products and/or services sold, such as a service agreement). Tier 3 is having a call-back rate below 5 percent; in addition to playing in the Bonus and Spiff Program, these techs get an additional spiff.

Do this and jumping to conclusions will be replaced by a jump in profits.