Administrative Professionals and other service-based representatives are taught to always “smooth things over” and make problems go away. They are the problem-solvers, the ones to whom responsibility often falls for getting things done, especially in the face of obstacles.
However, a Client Support Administrator for a large financial investment firm who serves several large clients (let’s call her Joanne), found that while we must do everything in our power to diplomatically and smoothly serve clients and work with our colleagues, we must sometimes risk “rocking the boat a bit” in order to serve clients best.
Take, for example, a client issue that recently arose at Joanne’s company. A client needed help with a two-pronged issue. Joanne could handle one portion of the problem herself; the other necessitated action on the part of another company, which was the client of a different department within Joanne’s company. Joanne was not allowed to contact another department’s “client,” which meant she needed to request help from someone in the other department. Time and time again over the next two weeks, Joanne requested the help she needed, to no avail. Meanwhile, Joanne’s client became more and more upset, as well as adversely affected financially, by the lack of action to fully resolve the problem.
Joanne escalated this issue to the Supervisor of the other department, hoping to receive quicker action by doing so. Even this resulted in no resolution. When Joanne reported this to her own supervisor, the supervisor was hesitant to get involved because the client who needed to take action was not a client of their department, so she didn’t want to “step on anyone’s toes.”
When legal action was threatened by Joanne’s client, she finally took matters into her own hands, personally contacted all parties involved and set up a conference call between her client, herself, the other department’s representative and that department’s client. She knew she was taking the risk of overstepping her boundaries, but it was the only way to get the issue resolved, avoid legal complications and satisfy her client.
This strategy worked – and the issue was resolved. But what everyone learned is the following:
- Sometimes, in an effort to avoid “rocking the boat” or “stepping on someone else’s toes” the client gets caught in the middle and suffers from our inaction.
- Clients’ needs must always supersede political correctness.
- If it’s the right thing to do, it must be done… and the consequences must be dealt with later. If it truly was the right thing, and the company is worth working for, the consequences will not harm the person who took the risk.
- If someone ends up paying the ultimate price for taking a risk to do the right thing, then the company who fires that person is not worth working for. While this is a harsh way to learn that your company is not worthy of your loyalty and efforts, it is far better to find out and move on to a company who deserves your work ethic and moral values.
Luckily for Joanne, she’d already had 10 years of experience with this company – and they were worth working for, because they supported her, even though she’d had to break the confines of tradition. One department normally did not interact with another’s clients… period. But in this case, to do what was right – not only for the client, but legally for her company – Joanne had to circumvent the norm and find a way around the restrictions. At her subsequent review, Joanne’s supervisor told her that she realized Joanne did everything in her power, had no recourse but to take the action she did, and acknowledged that Joanne had done nothing wrong.
This issue raises some interesting questions:
- What would you have done in Joanne’s shoes? In her supervisor’s shoes?
- Should anything be done about the other department’s actions, and the actions of their supervisor?
- Should Joanne have been rewarded? Reprimanded?
- Should company policy change due to this issue?
- What should happen to the client company who didn’t resolve the issue in a timely manner?
Let’s all remember that while we must always treat each other with dignity and respect, there are times when excessive “political correctness” (which has nothing to do with true dignity and respect, but deals with appearances only) actually hurts those we’re charged with assisting.
If you have an opinion, please comment below and let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!