Warning: this could be you.

I was chatting with my phone provider recently, trying to resolve an issue which involved both product delivery and billing. What should have been a short call lasted for — wait for it — one hour. I don’t know about you, but after conversing with five (count ‘em, five!) people and exercising considerable patience, I was afraid my head might spin off.

“That’s not my area,” one person said. “Our company just merged,” said the next. The excuses differed from person to person, but they were exactly that — excuses. You get where I’m going with this: I’ve been doing business with this provider for over 20 years, but this time they missed the mark — and very nearly lost me as a customer.

We’ve all had a business experience that seems to fly in the face of common sense. How do we lose our customers? It happens all too often, no matter what business you’re in. A new (or not-so-new) manager gets caught up in the rules, citing chapter and verse but forgetting to focus on the customer. A new (or not-so-new) organization is so absorbed in getting through tough times that it forgets how, and when, to move forward. What’s the solution? If you want to see an improvement in performance and profits in your company, hire a common sense manager.

See if this situation strikes a familiar chord. Over coffee, a colleague shared an experience she had with her bank. That morning, she had stopped by to deposit a small business check, a pretty routine transaction. When she reached the counter, the clerk calmly informed her that her substantial business account no longer existed. How did it mysteriously disappear? No one knew. Even though she was a long-term customer and the situation made no sense whatsoever, this was definitely a no-win; she was tempted to go find herself another bank. You’ve guessed it: common sense was definitely in short supply.

We all want to hire employees who have technical skills, confidence and leadership qualities. But we also need team members who have what your mom likely called good old common sense. It’s difficult to teach but oh so important to recognize. Good judgment, reasonableness, and an ability to understand how to make our business work for our customers, our clients and our companies are all key ingredients in employees today.

To counteract common sense snafus, consider focusing on these three tactics in your next management meeting:

  1. Think straight: No excuses. Remember Enron?
  2. Think like a concierge: Deliver what your clients need, seamlessly. If you’ve been to a five-star hotel, you know what I mean.
  3. Think about solutions: These eight words are all you need to know: It’s what comes after the merger that counts. When you’re changing jobs, merging companies or taking on a new client, think about how the change will affect your customers and how you can continue to solve their problems.

Common sense. Pass it on.

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