Sunday, October 23, 2011

Collateral Damage

I dropped by a local convenience store the other day to pick up a soda (for my readers from the South that's a "pop") and a bite to eat. The person in front of me was obviously irritating the clerk behind the counter, who was doing her best to stay patient. The customer finished and left and when it was my turn, I was met with a curt "Is this gonna be all for you?" Now, I try to be a nice guy, but there is a side of me that gets defensive and locks up. That's what I did in this case. I could feel my pulse rate increase and blood pressure rise. For a soda and snack I was confronted in what I perceived to be a hostile manner. I paid, collected my junk food lunch and left--feeling very uncomfortable.

As a business, or even customer service professional, is this how you want your customers to feel when they leave, whether they're walking out the door or hanging up the phone? Thought not.

Why does this happen? This phenomena is actually pretty common in the customer service profession and has been called "emotional leakage" by the Telephone Doctor. It involves unresolved issues from a previous customer spilling over to other transactions, and is human nature, the "kicking the dog" syndrome. There are things we'd like to say, but for one reason or another, we hold back. The anger lingers but now it probably has a touch of shame for not confronting the issue, for sitting back and "taking it." For whatever reason, innocent customers are hurt, something the military calls "collateral damage."

It's not right, and it's not good for us--customer service professional or customer. This is why I promote the use of "mini-meditations." You've heard this before - the "count to ten" exercise. It works, but it only works if you actually do it! It's simple and doesn't take much time.

After a rough transaction try this: close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Purge your mind of ANY thought whatsoever. If a thought enters your mind, picture yourself escorting it out. After ONLY A FEW SECONDS, you should have a fresh outlook and be well prepared for your next customer.

If you can't do that for some reason (e.g. other customers waiting in line), just smile--my guess is that you'll like the customer's reaction.

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