Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. And sometimes our stereotyping prevents us from recognising the value of these people. In the last month I’ve been privileged to interact with two individuals who most certainly are heroes from my perspective.
The first is a quietly spoken man, France Mthiyane. I first met him as a participant in a customer service training workshop, part of an ongoing programme run for over 300 staff at Save Hyper, Pietermaritzburg. During a session I was telling the story of my childhood and how my mother gave me the responsibility for polishing the apples in her store. Having shiny apples gave her business a competitive advantage. In addition, by assigning me tasks that I was capable of being good at, she was setting the path for my future success.
I tell this story in workshops and then ask questions that will help participants to gain insight. After a few questions, I asked: ‘So, once I’m continuously polishing the apples and making them look good, and more and more customers are coming to buy them, what do I need to be careful of?’ The customary answers would likely be: don’t stop - continue polishing to keep up the standards – reputation management – continue assigning tasks that will help people to become successful etc. In addition to these responses, France put his hand up and explained how we have to treat each apple with great care so that we don’t drop it. And then with wisdom, he expanded on the concept. His message conveyed the importance of respect for all people and all things.
Throughout our programme I have been impressed by his ongoing contributions. However, when shopping I have also watched him on the Save Hyper ‘floor’, too. He is often near the front helping any customer who needs a basket or other assistance. Or we might find him pushing heavy trolleys or helping other staff members in some way. People must think he is important, that he has a fancy title. However when I asked him what he was employed to do, he proudly answered, ‘I look after perishables’. I wanted to know more! He explained that his job description is ‘fridge packer’ and that he deals with cold items. He said this with pride and obvious enjoyment. Then he added: ‘You must like what you do, and then you’ll be successful’.
This great lesson and France’s wonderful example show us that every one of us can go way beyond the boundaries imposed by a job description. If we love our jobs and are prepared to make the effort, we can excel at any level. Throughout the course, each week he has consistently been chosen as a ‘Customer Service Hero’ by the staff. I commend the Save Hyper directors and management team for announcing France as the first ‘Staff member of the Month’ (October 2014).
My second hero is an insurance assessor. At the thought of claiming from insurance most of us go into ‘flight mode’. We know it isn’t going to be easy to gain fair compensation. And although we have suffered a loss, however small or big, we get ready for the ‘fight’. Yet, there are heroes out there and I’d like to tell you more about my dealings with Reyaz Allee, Claims Assessor, KZN Claims Processing Hub, Mutual & Federal Insurance Company Limited.
Here is the background: a few weeks ago disaster struck in the form of a burst sewerage pipe which flooded two rooms at our home. To get to this guest suite, we have to go out through an external entrance and down some stairs. As my husband is handicapped and now battles to get down the stairs, we don’t often use that area. In addition we have spare bedrooms in our main house so when family or friends come to stay, there is no need to use this exterior guest suite. However we do use it for storage and go there perhaps twice a month at the most.
On one of these visits, we were horrified to find that not only had the bathroom been flooded but so had the bedroom, now a storage room. I was shocked and dismayed that something like this could happen in our home. Yet this was an emergency and I had to work out how to manage this dreadful situation. In a state of panic I called the plumber who came with a team of five and ended up working for four days chopping away banks, digging up the garden, tracing the fault and then repairing it. They also started the initial cleaning. I also managed to engage industrial cleaners who came on site immediately.
However it was only after we’d set the process in motion, trying to create order out of chaos, that some-one asked what role our insurance company was playing. I hadn’t thought about that! I phoned our insurance broker who immediately swung into action. Yet I still felt overwhelmed at the thought of filling in all the forms, getting quotes and still trying to manage the clean-up process. When I was told that the assessor had been appointed, I wasn’t sure whether I was in fight, flight or freeze mode.
However Reyaz Alee instantly became my hero. He dealt with this dreadful situation with efficiency and compassion. I was really upset as many sentimental and valuable items had been destroyed or contaminated. How do you ever replace an antique leather suitcase? You can’t. And what about my mother-in-laws sleeper couch? Yet Reyaz became my partner in finding the best possible outcome. He immediately sent builders to remove the wooden doors and steps. He also included Lynda from ‘Gran & Gramps’ who became a fairy-godmother – or shall I call her a ‘heroine’? She advised, looked for solutions and came and collected our valuable wooden furniture to decontaminate and restore it. The plumbers, builders, cleaners, Lynda, ‘salvage contactor’ and Char, who was dealing with curtains and blinds, had to be managed and Reyaz did that, being accountable and keeping me informed at all times. We were partners in creating order out of chaos. And I believe that after hours of careful negotiation, on each item (and there were hundreds) that we were able to achieve an outcome that was fair to all parties. Reyaz, I commend you as one of my heroes.
So here we have two case studies. And my questions for you are:
- France, a ‘fridge packer’ and Reyaz, an ‘insurance assessor’ are unlikely heroes. What are the characteristics of these two very different heroes that put them in a category way above others in their fields?
- What part does their excellence play in shifting our perceptions of the brands they represent?
- Name two unlikely heroes with whom you have interacted in the last month. What characteristics or behavior made them extraordinary?
- How might their behavior have impacted on customers’ or clients’ experience of the service the company or firm offers?
- What have you done to show appreciation? And how have you escalated your commendation to higher levels within their organisations so that they’ll be recognised by their superiors?
Heroes are everywhere. Notice them and show appreciation. An added benefit is that you might become one of their heroes!
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