Monthly Archives: November 2018

Your Song

The new John Lewis Christmas advert was released last week. I have to confess, I’ve watched this several times on YouTube, as Elton John’s Your Song has to be one of my favourite songs of all time. As a teenager, when this was first released, I would play it over and over; it’s one of the few songs from which I could recite every word.  And because my mum loved it too, each time I hear it, it reminds me of her.

What has this got to do with your customer service culture?

This prompted me to think about 2 things which are important factors in creating a service culture:

Emotional triggers and anchors

We are surrounded by things that can impact our emotional state or our mood. And these are so easily picked up by customers. This is fine when it’s a positive emotional state, or a state that helps us to get into rapport with the customer.

Not so good when it’s a complete mismatch, or when we have negative emotions which are picked up by the customer, albeit subconsciously.

These emotional states can be prompted by the things other people say or do (when we’re surrounded by mood Hoovers, it’s inevitable this rubs off), the day’s events (e.g. missing the bus, or getting stuck in traffic, so we are late for work), or even our anticipation of future events (you’re not looking forward to speaking to that particularly difficult customer).

But, as in my case with hearing Your Song, it could be a sound, such as piece of music or birdsong, it could be a scent or a particular smell, it might be the touch or feel of something real or imagined. Or it might simply be recalling a scene from a movie, a fun night out with friends, or the first time you saw a particularly amazing view. Any of these things have the capacity to change someone’s emotional state, but it will be different triggers for different emotions and different triggers the different people.

So, how does all this relate to customer service?

If we know that some states will have a negative impact on the customer experience, we need to look to changing that state to one that is appropriate.

Firstly, we need to break the negative state. Simply by changing our physiology can help (think how we are on a car long journey and we are feeling sleepy, if we get out of the car and walk around for a few minutes we’ll normally feel more alert).

But we then want to replace this with a more positive state; so, the trick is to identify what triggers will work for you to elicit the right state.

Putting that into context, for me, hearing Your Song makes me feel rather sad, so although this very easily elicits an emotion, it might not be the emotion I want when I’m dealing with a customer. So, if I wanted to get into a very happy state, I know – for me – picturing a particular scene from the film The Full Monty always brings a smile to my face.

What’s Your Song? And the trigger that’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face?

And just as important, what’s the one thing that is guaranteed to bring a smile to their face for each of your team. You don’t have to know what this is, but it’s important that they do, so they can get into that happy state, even when their day has got off to a bad start.

The second factor in creating a service culture? I’ll come back to that next week.

 

 


Tears of frustration

Since my arm came out of plaster (following my mountain bike accident in July) I’ve been having weekly sessions with an occupational therapist to help get the strength and mobility back in my wrist and hand. It’s been a long, slow process, but on each visit I’ve made incremental improvements.

As you can imagine, some of the exercises she puts me through are testing, and at times quite painful. The thing is though, it’s one thing, doing the exercises with her at the hospital, but it’s quite another when I have to do these for myself 10-15 times a day at home.

And last week this led me to tears. Not tears from the pain, but tears of frustration.

I just couldn’t get one of the exercises right, and I knew if I couldn’t get it right here with the therapist guiding me there was no way I was going to get it right at home.

One instant she was tell me I was doing it wrong, and then the next she’d say “well done, that’s much better”. But the frustration was because I simply couldn’t tell the difference between doing it wrong and doing it right!

If we think in the workplace, are there ever times when we spot a team member doing something in a way that we know won’t get them the right result, but however much we pick them up on it, they still don’t get it right?

When we have to correct them on the same thing, time and time again, of course, this is frustrating for us, but it’s probably just as frustrating for them if they really don’t know what it is they’re doing wrong. Particularly when they really do want to get it right.

If this ever happens to you here are some pointers that might help…

What tells you it’s right or wrong?

The more specific you are about the tangible and measurable indicators, the easier it will be for the other person to measure their success.

Quantitative standards or pointers are easier to interpret than qualitative ones. So, for example, if you want phone answered quickly, specify in how many rings. When it comes to qualitative standards, it can be far more open to personal interpretation, so giving examples and/or demonstrations (and of course leading by example) can be helpful, but still be prepared to make the comparison between the right way and the wrong way.

Often, it’s subtle little nuances that make all the difference to reflect your service culture or improve employee productivity.

What’s the impact?

If people understand the end result they’re aiming for, this can help clarify why something is right versus why something is wrong. They can often see or feel for themselves that the wrong way doesn’t achieve the result they want and vice versa.

What to do differently?

Once people know what’s wrong (specifically), and why, it’s considerably easier for them to grasp the right way; or even to identify the right way for themselves.

Getting them carrying out tasks the right way, in comparison with the wrong way, is a step forward.

But…

It’s very easy for people to go back to the wrong way, particularly if that feels more comfortable, is easier or is quicker.

Human nature says we’ll always take the path of least resistance!

Until someone becomes fully competent and confident in the right way, (and we’ll assume here they already have the commitment and capacity to do things the right way) it will be all too easy for them to slip back into their old comfortable way of doing it.

So, be prepared to give further coaching, support and feedback until they have formed new habits.

And avoid those tears of frustration. For both them and you!

 


Another perspective

another persectiveWe all see things from different perspectives

Both my grandfathers served in the First World War. My mum’s dad (Pop) was an officer in India. Dad’s dad (Granddad) a private in the trenches in northern France.

As you can imagine Pop and Granddad had very different experiences and very different perspectives of the war.

They also both responded in very different ways. Whilst in India Pop kept a diary which included drawings to illustrate events, effectively creating an historical document (since donated to the Imperial War Museum).

Granddad, on the other hand, never ever talked about the war. He simply wanted to block out the horrors he’d witnesses and endured. And who could blame him.

Whatever your own perspective, in the workplace it’s always useful to consider things from different perspectives. Whether that is getting commitment from team members, dealing with customers, or merely seeking ideas or solutions to problems.

Let’s look at a few examples:

1. The Angry Customer

When I’m coaching managers to get the best from their team or training staff in dealing with customer complaints encouraging them to see things from other people’s perspectives is such an important part of resolving difficult situations.

Let’s focus on an example of a customer who is extremely angry and (to our mind) unreasonable. This customer is important to you because she spends a lot of money with you, but every time she visits or calls you anticipate some kind of confrontation or anger on their part. This is upsetting to you and your team but because they are a valuable customer you feel you need to do something to improve the relationship.

Your perspective

What I hear is a raised voice, curtness, demands for attention. What I feel is nervousness for what’s going to come next, frustration at her for doing this, defensiveness towards my team. What I’m saying out loud is calm, polite, but what I’m saying inside is how I’m determined I am not to be insulted. What I believe is this person is rude, arrogant and ignorant and likes to get her own way.

Customers perspective

As the customer I am stating what I want and the deadlines I need to meet. I hear someone who is meek and I’m not sure if they really understand my urgency and the pressure I’m under to get served quickly. I’m concerned that unless I make it very explicit I’m not going to get what I need, and I’m putting myself at risk of getting a hard time from my boss.

This second position (in this case getting into the customers shoes) helps create empathy and can give clues to a potential way forward. But although empathy will help it won’t necessarily lead to a solution both parties are happy with.

You both want the same thing – the customer getting what they need and going away happy

2. Poor Performance

When a team member isn’t acting appropriately or not doing what is asked of them. Imagine you’ve asked one of your team to carry out a refund for a customer. It’s a simple task, but when you check up on it later in the day you discover it’s not been done.

Your perspective

I’m irritated; I’ve given this person instructions on what’s needed. This is part of their job, and he should know what to do as he’s seen everyone else do it. If he doesn’t do it soon either the customer is going to get very irate, or someone else in the team will have to do it. I feel frustrated he’s not dealing with it, and appears to be putting it off.

Team member’s different perspective

I’m confused. I’ve been asked to do this task (my old manager always processed refunds himself). Although I’ve seen others do it, I’m not really sure how to get the information I need. I was shown once but it was a while ago and I’ve forgotten all the details. I know it’s important for the customer to process these promptly, but also I’m nervous about getting it wrong. I’d ask for help, but everyone is really busy. I have 101 other things to do, so I’ll get on with those for now, and ask for help later.

You both want the same thing – the task done correctly

3. Making changes

When you need to get buy-in to a change, unless you consider others perspective you can find resistance to that change. Let’s imagine you are about to install a new system for taking bookings. You know it will mean fewer errors.

Your perspective

I’m relieved we are finally installing the new system as I know it will reduce errors such as double bookings or bookings left off the system altogether. It will streamline the process so making it easier for the team and reduce complaints from customers when there have been errors.

Teams’ different perspective

Do they think it’s our fault? We believe it won’t make much difference as people prefer the personal touch, and probably won’t use it. Also, for regulars we know their personal preferences so if it’s all automated, we’ll end up with our regular customers being unhappy with their room or table allocation. If they aren’t happy they’ll moan to us and it’s bound to have an impact on our tips.

You both want the same thing – happy customers (who tip well!).

4. Finding solutions

It doesn’t just help in negative situations, it can also help clarify the way forward, when for example when you are stuck for a solution or a way forward on something that affects others.

For example: you have peaks and troughs of activity so when you’re quiet team members are sometimes under-utilised and end up wasting time. But at others you are really busy and then have an issue with customers being kept waiting.

Your perspective

I’m frustrated I’m paying wages for people to hang around doing nothing. But I know I need to have people there for when we are busy.

Their different perspective – person A

We have a lot of hanging around, which is boring, and it makes the day go so slowly. I don’t want to be doing this job for the rest of my life and would love to get involved with some of the things happening in other departments. Why can’t I spend the downtime helping in other departments, and they help us when we are busy?

Another different perspective – person B

I don’t know why I have to rush to get here so early as all we do for the first hour is hang around. I’d love to spend an extra hour with the kids before I come in, and I’d happily make up extra time if needed when we are busy.

You all want the same thing – not to have to hang around doing nothing.

In each of these scenarios you can see that the other person isn’t wrong, they just have a different perspective of the situation. Even when YOU think their belief is wrong or unfounded something must have led to their perception; to them this is the reality. Even if you believe you need to change their perception you must first seek to understand what it is and what it’s based on, and show you understand their perspective.

Then take a step back from an onlookers perspective to look for the areas of commonality so you can find a solution; ideally a joint solution that satisfies you both.

Related posts: Perceptual Positions  helps you see another perspective

Do your customers have  different perspectives?