Over the three decades I’ve worked with teams to enhance customer service, I’ve discovered that those employees who are the most popular with customers and co-workers, are not those who have lived so-called charmed lives. It’s not that their life journey has been without significant losses. It’s that they don’t let the events of life define their outlook on life.
It’s not about waking up and feeling wonderful about our circumstances. Heavens, I don’t know anyone who has lived beyond 40 who hasn’t suffered through a significant loss or tragedy. Instead, as my professional speaking colleague and friend Darci Lang shares in her “Focus on the 90%” messages, it’s more about appreciating the positive aspects of life. Easier said than done, right? Actually, it may be as easy as choosing different words to describe your life situation.
For example, what do each of these three words mean to you:
Lucky - Many of life’s triumphs and tragedies may indeed be attributed to good or bad luck: being born into wealth or poverty, natural disasters, disease and genetics, accidents… all impact our lives. Yet we all know of people who have managed to educate and work themselves out of poverty, change their geography, and taken steps to safeguard their health. Yes, we can thank or blame ‘luck’ for our situation, but luck is rarely the only factor.
Fortunate - You recognize that luck has played a significant role in your life. But you also give yourself credit (if only in your own mind) for making plans, having the gumption, taking steps and doing the work to overcome obstacles and improve your circumstances. Thinking of yourself and others as being ‘fortunate’ is to also recognize the value of resilience and perseverance. That mindset puts you in a stronger position to face future challenges.
Grateful - When tragedy strikes, we may experience the five classic stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - natural human emotions. Sometimes we may wallow in this darkness. Beyond considering getting medical assistance and counselling, we can also tap into the restorative power of gratitude. In even the most dire of circumstances there are aspects of life for which we can be thankful. If we choose to remind ourselves about them.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Team members who brighten the day for customers and co-workers are not necessarily those who have been lucky in life. Instead, they consciously remind themselves about the many little gifts of day to day living for which they are grateful. That gratitude gives them the strength and motivation to keep moving forward. And that progress creates positive results for which they consider themselves to be fortunate. In other words, the more grateful you feel, the more fortunate you’ll become.
Marriage experts say the biggest predictor of divorce is contempt. The opposite is not affection or love; it’s appreciation. So rather than focusing on our partner’s flaws, we remind ourselves - and them - what we appreciate about them. Working with teams to enhance customer service for over 30 years, I’ve found this practice also applies to our relationships with customers.
Some customers are inconsiderate and demanding. When we are swamped, our words, tone, and body language may send customers the message that they’re not welcome. Then again, without those customers we wouldn’t have a business/ job/ income. So next time you’re feeling less than warmly towards a cranky customer, take a breath and remind yourself what you appreciate about them. Even more maturely, take a moment to tell them. Watch how those few words make the encounter go better for everyone.
As an employee, there may have been times in your career where your have disagreed or been unhappy with a boss. The mature response would be discussing concerns directly with that individual. If that doesn’t work, then consider going above them, or as a last resort finding work elsewhere. Unfortunately, many employees take a passive/ aggressive approach and instead complain about their bosses to coworkers or even to customers. That’s a problem for everyone.
Whining about a boss hurts our own reputation more than that of the management about whom we are complaining. There are loads of jobs out there for competent people. Telling others about the ineptitude of management makes people wonder if we are too lazy or too unemployable to seek work elsewhere. It also shows disloyalty, disrespect, and a lack of discretion of what should be shared; especially with customers. The life lesson: Stop complaining. Do something about it.
Imagine you’re dealing with a company that’s performing their services slower than promised. When their front line employee attempts to fix things, which of these phrases would you as the customer find to be the most reassuring to hear: A) “I’ll tell my manager about it.” B) “I’ll look into it.” Or C) “Your problem just became my problem. And I’m going to pursue this until it’s resolved and you tell me that you’re satisfied.” No contest. ‘C’, the last phrase, conveys the take charge, responsible attitude that customers need and want to hear. Powerful results for a few words.
What would you tell the customer in this situation? You are a driving examiner and you have to fail an applicant because they ran a stop sign. An amateur would explain that, “It’s policy to not pass anyone who runs a stop sign.” A professional however, would rephrase the statement to, “Running a stop sign is a safety issue that we just can’t overlook. So, you didn’t qualify today.” The phrase “we can’t overlook” something gives the same information as “it’s policy”, but sounds more reasoned and acceptable.
One of life’s more difficult tasks is giving customers bad news. A common error is to start with the bad news – then trying to make it better by giving the good news afterwards. The problem is that as soon the receiver hears the bad news they become emotionally stressed. So they aren’t really listening anymore when you explain the good news. Instead, when giving both good and bad news, begin with good news (so they actually hear it) – then explain the bad. Hint – instead of calling it ‘bad’ news, say the ‘glitch’ or ‘challenge’ is…
Trusted Advisor Customer Service Video Tip
Time Management Tips
Reveal if you're working Smart or Hard
Typical time management methods often leave employees feeling like they are spinning their wheels. Team members want to complete important projects and take care of customers, but there are so many interruptions and competing priorities it’s difficult to gain ground. Fortunately, in this video I have three questions that reveal how by simply adjusting a few priorities, you can improve customer service, enhance efficiency, and help make more money for yourself and your company. As bonus, you get to go home at a decent hour and take care of your health and your relationships.