In the past few weeks, I’ve had the misfortune of having to deal with cancelled flights, incorrect orders delivered, poor service in a restaurant and mobile operators as I port my number from one network to another. Of course, my regular readers will realise, this creates much fuel for my weekly posts! Rather than commentary on the actual experiences, I thought this week we might observe the physical behaviours (visible to the customer if you are face to face, but observed by colleagues if you are delivering service remotely) that show you are delivering poor service. Here are the five behaviours I recently observed.
The shoulder-shrugging types: This behaviour is most often observed in men, generally of a younger age who may be quite early on in their career. They are confident at what they do, and for the most part competent, but a certain immature element means that they can be somewhat dismissive when it comes to something they don’t know the answer to, or where they don’t want to take ownership. The raising up of shoulders not only suggests that the individual does not know the answer to the question or situation, but potentially there also don’t particularly care. The shoulder shrug is quickly followed by some kind of deflection behaviour, looking to pass the situation on to someone else, rather than see the matter through to conclusion. When put on the spot and challenged, quite often the customer will get a better response with greater courtesy, but this habit is something that needs to be unlearned.
The hand-wringing types: For those of you who remember Barbara Clipboard, my bureaucratic and officious boss from many years ago, she was a classic hand-wringer. When Barbara didn’t know what the correct procedure or solution was, she would wring her hands, and start to panic. This was usually not in front of the customer, but as Barbara’s hand-wringing intensified, so the level of stress around her increased, sucking colleagues into panic mode. Whether due to lack of procedure, or unfamiliarity with a new scenario, hand-wringers certainly don’t lack a sense of ownership of the issue. In fact, it’s often the case that they take TOO MUCH ownership, and instead of engaging colleagues or escalating to a manager, the hand-wringers waste time and energy panicking, becoming distressed and delaying a resolution or response for a customer. When we aren’t thinking clearly, mistakes happen, and for hand wringers, one mistake on top of another will ultimately all end in tears.
The eye contact – avoiding types: For some people, despite the fact that they chose where they work and chose to stay in a particular job, they dread their daily toil and constantly fear being put on the spot. Sometimes, they face similar challenges to the hand wringers, other times they are more like shoulder-shruggers, but when in a face to face scenario, you avoid all eye contact, or even a decent level of acknowledgement regarding the customer’s presence. For the customer, this behaviour feels shifty, so they might over-compensate, asking more and more questions, and feel increasingly dismissed as the eye contact-avoider avoids their attention. This in turn increases the stress level of the eye contact avoider, ultimately leading a lack of delivery. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy when the customer has to call back and complain: “I knew they weren’t paying attention when I asked them!”, bemoans the customers when the eye contact avoider failed to action the customer request. It’s not incompetence or laziness, it’s just a wrong job fit for these folks – better to be somewhere away from customer interactions to allow them to shine.
The leaning back in their chair types: These folks are too cool for school. If you walk into certain kinds of trendy stores or bars, you’ll see these types more often than not. They know everything, they know more than the customer, and they don’t like to be questioned. They have no issue in talking down to, making fun of or being rude to customers and colleagues alike, and they act surprised when a customers pulls them up on their attitude and behaviour. Leaning back in their chair, slumped forward over the cash desk / greeter station or distractedly typing on their phone / computer when a customer talks to them, these people need to be taken around the back, and given a darn good session of customer service training! Being young, attractive, knowledgeable, technical or senior does not give you the right to be disrespectful to a customer. Humility and courtesy is the starting point for any happy relationship!
Talking over customer types: I had the great misfortune to be interrupted no less than 20 times in a short conversation with a Portuguese mobile provider agent. The gentleman in question was confident he knew what I wanted, who I needed to speak to and how to solve my issue before I was able to explain my issue fully. He was utterly infuriating, and constantly (loudly) spoke over me, providing irrelevant and incorrect information. Eventually I just stopped speaking, and waited to see how long he could keep talking at me…. 30 seconds! Those who talk over customers are usually very efficient souls – they want to get things done as quickly as possible, making everything in the word right. Unfortunately, as efficient as they are, they lack the soft skills to be customer facing, and because the customer’s feelings don’t figure in their problem resolution approach, even if they fix stuff fast, they leave the customer feeling frustrated, flummoxed and disrespected. These folks are best deployed on fixing things rather than people issues.
My post is written (as always) in a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek way, designed to make you smile as you read, but if you recognise any of these behaviours in your own interactions with colleagues or customers, it might be time to buck your ideas up and take a long hard look at whether the service you deliver is good enough!