Saturday, July 22, 2006

Why your service stinks

If you manage people who work with the public, and their attitude and service quality with your customers leave something to be desired, I’ll bet I know why that’s happening. Take this simple quiz:

1. What to you say to an employee who snaps back at a rude customer?
2. A new employee doesn’t reply or make eye contact with people. How do you respond?
3. An important customer is upset because one of your employees dropped the ball. What do you say to this employee afterwards?

If, like most managers, you criticize these people – even in genteel terms – you probably foster an environment where people are much more interested in “covering their assets” than pleasing your customers. And I completely understand why you both act that way. You are following human nature, they are following human nature, but the results lead you both to a place where neither of you really wants to go.

My new book Great Customer Connections covers many novel and effective communications strategies with customers, but one of its most important chapters is on how managers can communicate much more effectively with their own “customers” – e.g. their employees. Here are just a few of its tips:

Speak to the other person’s benefit. We all hate being corrected, but we love learning new skills. Instead of saying “You shouldn’t have talked back to that customer,” try saying things like “I can tell that person was getting under your skin. Tell me about it” and “I know some techniques that can help that go easier next time. Let’s role-play this.”

No criticism. Working with the public is hard enough without the burden of defending yourself. If you create a blame-free zone in your workplace, people will suddenly become very open about what’s happening with customers, and work with you to improve it.

Use the “I” technique. When you put things in your own terms, they become much less threatening. “*I* used to get really frustrated when *I* dealt with customers like that. Here is what *I* learned from it.”

All of these techniques spring from classic behavioral psychology, using techniques with lofty names such as “social cognition” and “modeling”. But more importantly, they really work – and the impact on your service quality, morale and turnover will be profound and dramatic.


Special note to my friends in New York state - the Great Customer Connections world tour is coming your way soon, with free lecture and book signing events in cooperation with the great folks at Borders Book Stores. I'll be in beautiful Saratoga Springs on August 8, in Ithaca on August 31 and in Syracuse on Sept. 7. Hope to see you there!

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