I was leading a customer service exercise the other day and a woman asked for solutions on how to deter the same customer from asking for their password over and over. We crafted some solutions as a group (One of which was to make it more difficult for the person to reach her. We did NOT encourage that idea!)
In this case, sometimes people give themselves permission to forget things because the answer is so readily available somewhere else. How many phone number did you have memorized 10 years ago? How many now?
This situation reminded me there is often an emotional aspect to customer service that sometimes alludes us. It put me in mind of this story I heard from a 20-year veteran staff member from the Boston Public Library.
Every week for several months, a man would come in asking for information about radios. He seemed distant, unfocused, a little "off," Even though she repeatedly served him, he repeatedly asked for the same information. Of course, after multiple visits she became quite frustrated.
After being absent for several weeks, the man finally returned and approached her. He said, "I was on medication for the last few months. I don't remember much, but I do remember that when I was here, I was helped."
It's a touching story and a good reminder that what might seem a nuisance for us, might be priceless to someone else.
In downtown Boston there are rumors of a mythical Dunkin' Donuts that has your order ready before you ask for it. Servers remember your name your order. I’ve heard it too many times – it has to be true!
If so, this is exemplary customer service. Remembering names, especially from a giant corporation, is an easy way to create a personal relationship with your customers because names are so…well…personal.
It’s also a good example of a simple act that can have a lasting impression. More commonly – as Maya Angelou is often attributed as saying – “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you did or said, they will remember how you made them feel.”
This could not have been illustrated any clearer when a staff member shared the following story during a customer service workshop at the Boston Public Library.
A gentleman came into the library and asked for information on how to build a ham radio. He seemed unfocused and distracted. She helped him and he went on his way. Every week he came back asking for the same information. Most staff got tired of answering the same questions and began to avoid him when they saw him coming, but one librarian worked with him every time.
A few months after his last visit he approached the librarian who had been most attentive to him. He thanked her and said during that period of his life he had been on medication that effected his memory. “In fact, the only thing I remember is… every time I came to this library I was helped.”
He didn’t remember what they said, he remembered how they made him feel.
Often, these simple behaviors – calling someone by name, or simply serving a customer as you should – have an enormous impact.
It’s a great way to start your day.
One thing I regularly tell people in my workshops is that to change an outcome we need to change our behavior. As John Connor said in many timelines of the Terminator movies, “There is no fate but what we make.” We can do it one way and see the same thing, or we can do it another and do it better.
One of my favorite quotes is by Marshall Ganz, an activist leader and senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government. In his essay, “Why Stories Matter: The Art and Craft of Social Change,” he talks about the effects of aggressively owning your own choices. That is, being the protagonist in your own story.
"Some people say, “I don’t want to talk about myself,” but if you don’t interpret [it] to others...people will interpret it for you. You don’t have any choice if you want to be a leader. You have to claim authorship of your story and learn to tell it to others so they can understand the values that move you to act, because it might move them to act as well."
I use this message to remind people good presentation, good customer service, good leadership, in fact all we do, doesn’t happen by acident. We are our own agents of change.
He goes on to write…
"We all have a story of self. What’s utterly unique about each of us is not the categories we belong to; what’s utterly unique to us is our own journey of learning to be a full human being... And those journeys are never easy. They have their challenges, their obstacles, their crises. We learn to overcome them, and because of that we have lessons to teach."
This idea – that we all have a lifetime of experience that defines us and can influence those around us – reminds us everything we say and do has an impact, and we have the freedom to choose what we say and do.
There is a beautiful line in the play “Stage Kiss” by Sarah Rull: “Every night the sun goes down and the moon comes up and you have another chance to be good.”
Did the conversation with your boss not go well? Was your keynote not as polished as it could have been? Are you role modeling the behavior you would like to see in others?
All of these experiences are part of your story, the story of you. And you are the author of your life.