At a recent marketing conference, the message came out loud and clear: customer service drives success. It is a sentiment repeatedly echoed on shows and interviews with geniuses and savvy business leaders across the nation. You’ve even heard it in some form or another on the popular TV show, Shark Tank. It’s everywhere, ready for us to scoop up for our own use, but the hardest thing to do is implement it effectively. Why??
While customer service has much to do with courtesy and responsiveness, there’s one thing that we, as professionals and masters of our craft, find it naturally easier to resist than entertain…
And this is the key to customer service.
Simple? In concept, yes. In practice, not quite.
One of our five senses, and certainly the most important when it comes to providing for our customers, hearing becomes runner up in a competition with our voice. As one of our staff quoted at a recent retreat, “you have two ears and one mouth – use them in that proportion!”
But there’s more to listening than simply hearing, as our staff learned at that same retreat in a series of improvisation exercises led by Washington Improv Theater. The exercises required us to partner up with another colleague and take turns completing sentences and telling stories by alternating words. Our instructor pointed out an interesting tendency at the end of the exercise that applied to everyone, like it or not – whether as a survival tactic or pure habit, people anticipate what they will say next to someone before that person has even finished his or her sentence. We are always trying to be one step ahead – to have the answer, to steer the conversation, to prove that we are the true expert – and we are often not even conscious that we’re doing it!
The most difficult thing to do is to not think of what’s coming next while another person is talking. Try this exercise sometime to see for yourself:
Tell a story with another person by alternating words. You start by saying one word to begin the sentence. Then let the other person provide the next word. Then you go again. Back and forth until the sentence has been completed with “period” (that counts as one word). Go fast. The faster you go, the more you’ll notice your tendency to try to think ahead.
“That’s really interesting, Ilana. I tried the exercise and totally caught myself trying to finish the sentence myself! But how does this apply to my business and providing the best service to my clients?”
Great question. Look out for Part 2 to find out!
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