What’s In A Term? Status Quo


Photo credit: surrealmuse via Compfight cc

“What does ‘status quo’ mean?” the facilitator asked his learners. He repeated the question, to make sure they understood that this definition was on them.

The context of this question was a foundation lesson in customer service. Participants were discussing what would create a negative customer experience. One of those things: “Ride the ‘status quo.'”

So: what does status quo mean?

The answer, as delivered by the facilitator: “To do as little as possible.”

I’ve tended to define “ride the status quo” to mean “keeping things as is.” I checked Merriam Webster to validate that I wasn’t off my rocker: “the existing state of affairs.” is their definition.

I can see how, in another person’s eyes, “status quo” could appear to mean “to do as little as possible.” After all, water takes the path of least resistance, and that path of least resistance is often where all the drops of water preceding it have been – the status quo.  But in the corporate world the status quo can also be a kludge of processes and steps. Or a procedure that inhibits productivity. This is often NOT the same as doing “as little as possible.”

Both definitions can spark valuable conversations in a training class. We want to encourage behavior that exceeds customer or client expectations. The definition of “riding the status quo,” as a foundational lesson, is one that should be revisited throughout the training. But: could the facilitator’s incorrect definition impact the lessons learned?

Let’s take a look at some of the implications for each definition:

Status Quo – Meaning: “As little as possible” “The existing state of affairs”
Customer Service training Won’t seek out customers in the store Doesn’t go out of way to help the customer: will only follow procedure
Sales training Skips portions of a sales script because it’s too much work Sticks to the script without deviation for the customer
Workplace productivity Is lazy Is not innovative

In the class I was overhearing, the lessons to be learned were not remedial in nature, and the facilitator was not exhorting his learners to behave. However, the incorrect definition admonishes, while the correct definition encourages a representative to be engaged and responsive during their customer interactions.  By using this erroneous definition, the facilitator is now unable to revisit the lesson throughout training, unable to challenges learners to discuss how they could utilize the tools and techniques shared in later lessons to step up their innovative thinking.

It’s a small point. But the devil’s in the details, right? I guarantee the designers of that customer service lesson knew that, which is why they used the term “status quo” in the first place.

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