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Bad Employee Experience; Not being able to do your job and help the customer

I’m not impressed with job titles. Never have been. Never will be. I believe they set up unnecessary barriers and disengage rather than engage employees. I am however impressed with what people do….what they really do. Seriously, look at financial institutions; who’s not a Vice President?

One of the reasons I created the Engagement Recess Activity in the RECESSitation Pack was to break through the job title and organization chart barrier and get to the heart of what people do; so that the people in the next cube, office, or department clearly know what you do, how you can help them, and perhaps how you can help a customer. Even better it is designed to get customers engaged with employees.

Take my recent experience with TDBank, America’s Most INCONVENIENT bank as I am calling it these days. I recently started the process of moving my banking there. Now I totally get that banks will put longer holds on deposited checks for new customers; but I was having cash deposits held against checks! Isn’t that criminal?

The second deposit I made was a large sum. It was a check. The next morning my entire account was negative??? The day before I had approximately $1,000 available to use.

After the Branch/Store Assistant Manager never called me back with an explanation I called customer service. The Customer Inconvenience Rep tried to explain to me that there is a hold on the check. DUH! No ____! She couldn’t explain why the already available funds were no longer available – and at least the first $100 of the deposit. Neither could her supervisor. And that person’s supervisor could only tell me that she would send an email to the “back office” and ask them why they were putting a hold on my entire account – which by the way resulted in my ATM card being declined twice at the gas pump. I asked to speak to the back office and she told me she can’t even speak to the back office.

“And as an employee, you’re okay with not being able to help a customer solve their issue right now” was my question to her.

Her response was that she would send an email. Ah, the script and the famous submit a form. We all know where those go when no one seems to know what happened. My response was your employer is creating a lousy employee & customer experience. I have options. You probably don’t have the guts to pipe up or explore yours. (Yes, I was pissed.)

Fast Forward! I get a very nice letter (sarcasm) from an Executive Vice President at TDBank offering me overdraft coverage; the letter mentions my recent ATM decline.

LIVID!!  I track this one down and leave a voice mail ripping into her about trying to make money off of me with an interest charging product after the bank in essence had stolen my money – no matter how temporary! I go on to tell her that maybe they need to correct bank internal problems before selling people unnecessary products and services.

Yesterday I get a call from “The Office of the President.” Now considering everyone is a VP at a bank, I can only wonder if the Office of the President is as crowded.

Well this nice lady informs me that I have uncovered a problem in their system. Really!?!?!?! She will be investigating the problem; as she is sure others have experienced the same situation.

She ends the call informing me that she is crediting $25 in my account for my inconvenience. Woo-Hoo! Maybe I’ll use it for gas to drive to the bank. Maybe they should give me $25 every day for the customers I may have just saved. I’m serious. TDBank, are you reading this?

But here’s what is sad………..that the people in customer service or the store/branch people didn’t know who to call, what to do or how to help. But they did know how to use terms like Back Office – even though they had no idea who these people are or what they do.

My challenge to every organization is to offer every employee an opportunity to find out a bit more about the roles others play. Offer them some time each week to learn more about your organization and the employee experience will change for the better. And that’s a good thing.


Rich DiGirolamo works with organizations committed to creating a great employee experience. From Fortune 10 to the smallest of non-profits he gets people to show up “IN” their work while working harder for the organization. The end result is a happier employee, employer and customer.

Save the Employee Experience: Don’t allow “I remember when……”

Talk to anyone who was on the ground level of a start-up company that has now grown into something big and they’ll have their “I remember when” stories.

  • I remember when everyone knew everyone
  • I remember when decisions didn’t require 18 signatures
  • I remember when we did things as a company
  • I remember when EVERYONE was rewarded when the company met objectives
  • I remember when autonomy and risk really meant something.

Then the company grew. The once great place to work is now stagnant; people don’t look forward to arriving at 6:00AM any longer and are heading out the doors at 5:00PM sharp. It’s why people leave and move on to the next start-up; the next great idea. It’s why people are leaving places like Google to go work for Facebook. It’s why people will leave your company.


You take a look around your organization when it is young and make one of your strategic initiatives a commitment to keeping the start-up employee experience intact. The article I’ve linked to above talks about an employee who was offered a better employee experience at Google- perhaps similar to the early days – only after he tendered his resignation. Too late. That’s just more big company thinking; and clear confirmation to this employee that the decision he made was the right one. It’s an example of how we react instead of think ahead. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Google. Years ago I saw the same thing happen with a company called Hyperion; which I think ultimately got swallowed into Oracle.

Creating autonomy, allowing risk, keeping control of layers, and celebrating the successes organization-wide will always make for a great employee experience, keep people engaged, retain talent and in the end lead to a customer experience like no other.

So before you think about adding another layer of management next year and seeking another approval signature, think again.

Or better yet, take a recess from that thinking and invite a group of your “original” employees to help you grow the business without blowing the employee experience.


Rich DiGirolamo works with organizations committed to creating a great employee experience. From Fortune 10 to the smallest of non-profits he gets people to show up “IN” their work while working harder for the organization. The end result is a happier employee, employer and customer.

What CAN you do to create a better employee experience?

You can’t afford raises. You can’t afford training. You can’t afford a small recognition event. You can’t afford to hire more people. You can’t. You can’t. You can’t.

But the economy is supposedly getting better. Just yesterday USA Today reported that restaurant business is up. Tourism is showing signs of a rebound; small but a rebound.

Is it that you really can’t afford these things? Or is it that you’re afraid? Afraid that the news is wrong? Afraid that the double dip is coming? Afraid of what your boss might say when you walk into his or her office with employee morale on your mind? Afraid. Afraid. Afraid.

Organizations that take risks keep people engaged. Organizations that have stopped listening to the doom-and-gloom news seem to be doing quite well. Organizations that continue to invest in their people are seeing higher engagement and the return of customers.

And the rest????

Look at all the vacant real estate. Look at the number of employees spending their days on Facebook and Twitter. Imagine if that time was spent making your organization great. Seriously, have you ever thought how many hours are wasted by employees when inviting them to help “fix” or “grow” a company would cost you nothing – you’re already paying them.

So my question becomes what CAN you do to make the employee experience just a little better? 

  • Could you include them in the business a bit more?
  • Could you let them leave a bit earlier the day before Thanksgiving? What does that really cost you? They’ve got stuffing and football on their minds all day long anyway.
  • Could you let them create their own recognition event and give them a couple of hours to honor one another?
  • Could you make yourself more visible in hopes of easing some of the concerns that still exist?
  • Can you send them to a movie one afternoon? They’ll be gone 2 – 2 1/2 hours. I’m sure they’re giving those hours back to you. Heck, how about paying for that movie? Even if you need to go into your own pocket.

I talk to Leaders, Managers, Association Execs and HR Professionals all the time. So many of those conversations start with “I wish we could…….”

I wish you would Take a Recess and refrain from starting conversations with those words. I know that YOU CAN DO! And once you do you’ll be free to explore all the possibilities and see that investment in your employees does not always require money; but it does require commitment and a change in your level of fear & risk.

Train your employees to have a great employee experience

  • We’re short staffed
  • We had someone call in sick today
  • Our technician is already doing his best
  • We can’t schedule you first tomorrow; an emergency or something might come up
  • We can’t guarantee you anything
  • Oh, you can’t stay at home and wait a couple more hours?


That’s what I did. This was clearly not what I wanted to hear this employee whine to me about in the 8 minutes we were on the telephone.

Not once during our conversation did Lisa at Arrow Gas try to come up with a solution that was good for me. Not once did she even acknowledge that I just wasted four hours waiting for a service call (you know the ones; where they tell you that you’ll need to be home between 12 and 4PM) that wasn’t about to happen.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t a total waste. I watched the episode of South Park I missed the night before. 

So my customer experience was sucking; but I started thinking about her employee experience. I bet this is not uncommon for her. I bet these types of calls are probably routine; calling people to tell them that we’re not going to be there.

Does this woman really like telling people she cannot help them? Does she really like not being able to offer solutions that would make a customer happy? Does her company spend no time training their people with obvious solutions that would make me happy? Obvious solutions like the one I gave her…………..

Lisa, here’s my cell phone number. Have your technician call me when he knows he’s about 20 minutes away and I’ll get my butt back home. Right now I need to get to an appointment.

Not that hard. Hopefully she’ll use that tip in the future.

When I work with companies I often find that the obvious and simple solutions are the ones that are almost always missed. Why? People are conditioned to tell you why they cannot help; why things won’t work in your favor. People are conditioned to justifying and rationalizing why they failed you.

If I was an employee of that company I would want to say “Yep, we screwed up. Let’s figure out together how we can get this fixed for you today.”

When an employee knows he or she has helped a customer they are engaged; they have a great employee experience. Spend some time regularly coming up with Best Solutions to common customer complaints. It just might help morale, retention and the employee experience.

Make Social Networking a mandatory part of the employee experience

So what’s going on in the world of social media and how employers are embracing or restricting it?

Depends on who you are talking to and which expert you are following. Did you ever notice that for every study one can find enough evidence of the complete opposite? And what’s even sadder is that organization policies are then developed not on what might make sense but what some study, survey or expert of the day is saying.

Case in point is social media. Should we let employees tweet? Should we let them have access to Facebook or 4Square during the day? What if they say something inappropriate about us?

First of all if you’re worried that they’re saying inappropriate things you’ve got bigger issues about the employee experience you’re providing and probably need to work on that before worrying about who is on Facebook. Secondly, they all have smartphones; so your company restriction doesn’t matter.

  • Why not encourage people to “check-in” on 4square or Facebook Places when they arrive to work. Let that post go out through the Social Media stratosphere. It’s PR for your company, right? So what it doesn’t have your logo. So what your brand is not positioned the way you like it. If I write that I’ve been hired by companies like McDonald’s and The Salvation Army I’m not using their logo, but it gives them exposure; an impression. So let the competition begin as to who will be the Mayor of your company!
  • Why not let your people talk about the cool product/service they’re working on at ABC Co. Don’t you want me to know about your offerings? Don’t you want me to buy your brand over a competitor? Don’t you want me to know you’re on the cutting edge?

The bottom line is this……………they’re already spending time Socially Networking on company time. You have company cheerleaders available to you 24 hours per day. You have an untapped sales force that is not being utilized because we’re too worried about……….what I don’t know?

I’ve been conversing with someone on Facebook for over a year. We met at a conference where I was presenting a leadership program. She’s active on Facebook. She responds to my posts. We “play.” But had I not asked her about her employer I would never have known. Had I not asked her about who she was employed by, what she does all day long, how long she’s been employed, etc I would know nothing. She’s on Facebook a lot during the day. So either she’s bored, really good at her job or lazy. It doesn’t matter.

Companies who embrace social media will add to the employee experience. If you want to create a policy of rules and restrictions, go ahead. But I think you should create a policy that encourages and promotes your brand. You do want me to know about your company, right?

Now of course your employees might NOT want to promote your brand. And in that case………. (see paragraph 4)

Have fun with this. Create that check-in competition. Track who converted a follwer or fan to a customer and honor that person. There are so many possibilities.

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed and guess what I found…..

My natural instinct when rolling out of a hotel bed is to get out on the right side (that would be right side when looking at the bed.) It’s the side I get out on when at home.

The right side of the bed at the Renaissance Patriot Place was near the wall; but still plenty of room to move about. When I rolled out of bed yesterday morning I stepped on something hard and pointy. And it went crunch.

I bent over to see a few pieces of a brownish substance on the floor. Oh……must be potpourri. Why they put it on the floor where people walk made no sense but who knows what hotels are thinking today when it comes to providing a different type of customer experience.

I picked it up.


It was hardened fried chicken pieces!!!!

Now the night before I was hemming and hawing at 9:00PM whether to order room service or just go to sleep after a long day. I went to sleep. Little did I know that Marriott had left me a surprise snack should things have gotten bad in the middle of the night.

On my way out yesterday morning I mentioned my “find” to the guest relations person. Her response was classic.


That was it. Nothing else.

After about 5 seconds I just laughed. Clearly she had no idea what to say with me. Guess they didn’t cover that at the employee training sessions.

Q: And what happens when the guest finds half eaten food on the floor of their room?

  1. Stand there in silence
  2. Ask if the food was the right temperature
  3. Offer them a fork and a knife


I suggested she might want to share this information with housekeeping and told her to have a great day. It was not a terrible thing. Although she should consider herself lucky………a different type of customer may have come down from that room with a list of demands longer than Santa’s Toy List.

Most people who wake up on the wrong side of the bed are in a foul mood; I found myself in a “fowl” mood!

Coincidentally, lunch at the event where I spoke yesterday was chicken. Hmmm……………..

What’s on your outside?

What do you see?

I pedal my bike by it all the time. Thought it was an old abandoned building. Then I heard it was a bakery. That only opens on Sunday.

A bakery? Looks like a dump. Looks like the Board of Health should be there boarding it up.

More and more people started talking about this place. I was driving by Sunday afternoon. The open sign was on.

Inside was a sign….Eddie’s Bakery. I made a purchase. Let’s see what the rage is all about.

OMG, the best Rye Bread I ever had. And a testament to good food can be cheap.

Whether it’s a building or a person, the outside never tells the story. Get to know it/them.

P.S. Look hard at the wood. I guess it was there all along.

Teach employees to have a sense of humor; not to say “I’m sorry”

We’ve all heard it…………. The Customer Service Representative who says “I’m sorry” for your trouble Mr. DiGirolamo (insert your name where mine is).

No they’re not; we all know it. They’re told to say that. They’re not REALLY sorry.

Wouldn’t it be great if they said things like:

  • You’re right Mr. DiGirolamo, the clown who opened your account had no clue what he was doing.
  • It’s in the terms and conditions that you checked off/accepted and didn’t read. No one reads them. It’s silly and pointless to even have them.
  • I agree, the policy is moronic and the people who run this place are so out of touch with the customer.
  • But if I do that we make less profit


Like yesterday, I walked into my bank to close an account. I was asked why. My response was “there will be a $35 fee for me to give you that reason. Please close my account.” The woman in the bank was not amused. Don’t like when the shoe is on the other foot, do ya?

I believe employees want to help customers and have a great employee experience. I believe employees want to make right when customers are not happy. But truthfully, I think this “I’m sorry” nonsense has got to go.

Humor will always prevail over platitudes. Always.

Next time your front line people gather for a team meeting or training session, why not spend some time laughing at the repeated complaints that they here from customers and devise some humorous responses. Even if you only use them for yourself, you’ll create a great employee experience. If you share them with the customer it’ll be a double bonus.

And if you need help with this I’m always available for hire?

Always Right Manager = Bad Employee Experience

Witnessed Very Recently:

  • He needs to hear himself talk
  • He always has to one-up his employees
  • He needs to feel that he is the authority
  • If you work for him you cannot teach him anything
  • He thinks information is power
  • He assumes you don’t know rather than ask if you do

Coincidentally the rest of the staff want nothing to do with him, talk about him, do what they can to avoid him and sadly he sits alone and ignored when his team is in a social setting

Message to leaders and managers: You’re not always right. And even if you are, (which you’re not), you’re disengaging people with the above behavior.

The irony of employee satisfaction surveys and employee disengagement

Her job was to coordinate the employee satisfaction survey with the outside 3rd party. Yes it says “was.” Read on. It doesn’t have a happy ending.

So what is the purpose of the employee satisfaction survey?

  • To hear what is on the minds of employees and make for a better & more engaged organization?
  • An exercise in futility to appear as if you care about what is on the minds of your workforce?
  • To disengage employees?

So when the results came back all information was compiled by department and not by entire company. Verbatim words came through on the results; making it clear who said what. If you were a department leader or manager you knew whose words you were reading.

She brought this to the attention of her boss when she clearly recognized her own feedback – which by the way was nothing but positive. But still, she pointed out a “potential” flaw in the system.

And here’s how it went from here……..

  • Employee knew she just shot herself in foot for not being a good lieutenant but instead looking to do her job and make for a process that really would lead to change, growth, increased employee engagement and a stronger better organization
  • She was moved to another department
  • She was making as much money as her boss
  • Her boss gave her a great review but told her she would get no raise because of her pay grade in the new department
  • She did what employees are told to do…….speak up
  • She was offered a demotion or a severance package

This is why employees are afraid to say what is on their mind. This is why employees become disengaged. And this might be classified as a clear case of retaliation; which is just plain wrong.

But it ultimately comes down to a few basic points that have been around forever:

  • If you really don’t want the truth don’t ask for it
  • Design flaws might lead to more work; but ultimately better products and services; or in this case a more engaged workforce.

 There’s a difference between wanting to be better and hearing the hard words that will make you better. When I work with my clients I asked them what they are going to do after I leave to reinforce the time I spent with their group. If they cannot answer me with some sort of a plan I ask them to rethink why they’re bringing me in.

So shame on you big CT Annuity Company. And if any of you are in need of a great internal comunications person let me know.