One day, in the middle of a call center, a very pregnant young lady (as opposed to being just a little bit pregnant) stood in the middle of a sea of cubicles and shouted, “Someone please listen to me! Something terrible is happening!”
She was from Accounts Receivable. For days she’d been getting angry phone calls from customers saying the company had cleaned out their checking accounts. The customer placed a phone order for a few items and was billed for hundreds more. One lady ordered 11 items and was charged for 110.
Customer Service had also gotten calls from folks who desperately begged, “Please, make it stop!” Delivery guys showed up at their doors and unloaded boxes upon boxes of product. One lady asked for her items be delivered to her office. So there she was, holding the door open for the delivery guy, crying on the phone with boxes of product piling up all around her.
People who’d requested Express Delivery (like FedEx) were charged the $25 fee, multiplied by the quantity of products they’d never ordered.
Rapidly reduced inventory levels triggered purchasing, prompting automated requests to manufacturers to resupply depleted stock.
Shipping had to bring in extra trucks and add people to the packing line.
Phone reps didn’t know whether to ask for product to be returned or tell customers to keep it. Either way there was inconvenience for the caller and expense to the company.
People were in a panic! It was totally out of control. And nobody put the pieces together until this frustrated young lady from Accounts Receivable demanded attention.
Your current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers —Unknown
She’d tried to sound the alarm the nice way, the quiet way, the politically correct way. And nobody listened. Nobody took her seriously.
Till she made a spectacle of herself. They everybody noticed! And they hustled to pull together a team that worked late into the night trying to figure it all out.
HOW THE CRISIS WAS SOLVED
Turns out someone had worked on the phone order system a few days earlier. He’d removed the phone order audit filter, which allowed the computer system to add a “0” or “1” to the quantity of each order placed by phone. And he forgot to switch it back on.
It took a while, but the problem was solved. Protocols were created. Customers were made whole. And after a while, things returned to normal.
But nobody looked at that outspoken young lady quite the same way again.
She was a hero. She took a risk. She knew something was seriously wrong and took the bull by the horns. She put the pieces together.
And she had a healthy baby girl!
WHAT PEOPLE SAY TO SHUT US DOWN
People say lots of things that discourage us from stating concerns, frustrations, requests for action or change, including:
- You’re just too sensitive
- You’re making a mountain out of a molehill
- She’s such a troublemaker
- He’s not a team player
- You’re not open-minded OR you’re too open-minded
- You’re being insensitive and might offend someone
- She’s just too fussy
- He’s always so negative
- You’re not being strategic enough
If we accept those labels and back down, it’s usually more about us than the issue at hand. We don’t want to rock the boat or appear uncooperative. Maybe we dislike conflict. We worry about our image and reputation.
We’re afraid to call it like it is. We’re afraid to say out loud, “The Emperor has no clothes.”
This world would be a whole lot better off if we had more people willing to put a stake in the ground, tie themselves to it and fight to the bitter end. —Laura Lollar
Maybe more problems would be solved. Maybe we’d mentor more decisive and courageous leaders. Maybe confidence would grow and people would be willing to tackle the uncomfortable, gnarly challenges.
Don’t let someone tell you that your issue or concerns are not important. Don’t let them shame you into becoming a mediocre, bit player. Excellence is not always a popular place to be. People who make a difference in this world don’t play it safe.
So, whatever happened to the guy who removed the audit filter? (People were placing bets.) He kept his job. The leadership team knew everyone makes mistakes, which often reveal vulnerabilities and creates an environment where problem solvers shine!
NOTE: True story from my time a Customer Service and Sales Team Supervisor at a manufacturing company.