When the ROI Leaves Us Freezing Cold

26 October 2018

Last month, I was the first to arrive at a facility where I’ve led trainings in the past. It was a frosty, New England morning, and also chilly inside.

I poked my head into the kitchen and asked if I could turn up the heat. It was set at 60 degrees. The server responded that they would turn up the thermostat to 65 degrees – and no more. Since it was a large room, I suggested the temperature might need to be warmer. She stated that the hosting organization was lucky to be able to rent the room, given there were only 22 people in attendance.

Wait, What?

Did she just tell me to buck up and be cold? Because that’s exactly what happened two years prior, when the heating system never turned on and people remained bundled in their jackets, drinking hot liquids for the entire seven-hour training.

I tried again, and she stood her ground. No higher than 65 degrees, although she assured me the room would warm up. With that, she turned and walked away.

Twenty minutes later as people were arriving, a friendly man came out from the kitchen and checked the thermostat. He said we could turn up the heat if needed – and that they hadn’t tested the system yet…..

It’s a small business. I’m not doubting that everyone is hardworking.  And I’m not preaching either, because I know the stress and impact on behavior when resources are scarce, whether it’s customers, clients, employees, money, materials or time.

But when cost containment and ROI freezes the customer out, we’ve lost control of the relationship – a priceless asset.

A recent study by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Center determined that 85% of job success comes from people skills and 15% from technical expertise. (National Soft Skills Association, April 2017)

The good news is that the owner of this facility received feedback from the host organization.  We don’t have an opportunity to change our behavior if we’re not given specific information.

And as outrageous as the server’s response seemed, she reminded me of how quickly we can lose sight of the people we are serve – whether internal or external customers. When the going gets tough we often seek to control, when what’s really needed is our ability to engage.