Wednesday, 10 December 2008

customer service: part II – the solution

I've had my (valid) rant about predominantly crap service (see my last post), so let's move on to affirmative stuff.

Never a massive John Lennon fan, I agree it can often be a very good thing to Imagine a better world …
(as long as you're prepared to get out of bed and do something about it!)

So let's imagine a society where every person put everyone else ahead of themselves.
No self-servers, no queue-jumpers, no precious little personal agendas or self-centred 'emotional' responses.

(Of course, everyone's entitled to a little 'ME-time'. It's noted, so don't panic.)

To take a wholistic approach to customer service: the problem embodies the solution!
Your life, your family, your society, your planet, your universe has NEVER been about YOU … or me … or someone else:
It's always been about the entire fucking system!

I can't claim to have perfected the approach - and, indeed, I have more than my share of faults (e.g. I'm in the Guiness Book of Records under World's Worst Housekeeper!) - but it's one I strive for every day.
How does it work?
It ain't rocket science.
Try life at the back of the queue!

Example 1: Pay it forward.
(No, I don't believe in 'karma' but this is all about 'doing the right thing' - and satisfaction is its own reward.)
Be spontaneously helpful.
Trust people to fulfil commitments - at least once. :)
Offer respect up front - don't wait for it.
(Yes, you'll frequently get your fingers burnt!
Yet you'll also learn a hell of a lot. About others. About yourself. About how to 'do it better' next time.)

Example 2: Learn to say 'Yes!' most of the time.
Personally, I'm more than a little bored with those 'life-pilgrims' who've spent half a lifetime 'learning to say No'.
Engage with people! 'Learn' to enjoy helping them!
Your colleagues, your community, your planet really need your participation!

Example 2a: Be generous … with your time, with your talents, with your beer fridge.

Example 3: Children aren't chattels!
Indeed, they have a lot to learn and do need to follow the directions of loving parents for their own good, but they have every right to have their say and be respected as equal human beings.
'Children should be seen and not heard' is simply a bullshit model.
I can't stand parents who repeatedly shut their kids out of social interactions or otherwise disrespect them.
Parent, teacher, mentor, whatever your role … caring for kids is not about you; AND it's certainly never been about control.

Example 4: Leave your baggage at the door.
You've probably noticed that I'm a keen student of human behaviour.
Based on my direct observations over the past 40 years or so, I'll assert that about two-thirds of conflict situations (including poor service) arise from poorly contained, misdirected, self-centred emotions (usually combined with poor communications skills - see below).
Don't take your problems out on anyone else!
Leave your issues at home.
Having the proverbial 'bad day'? FFS, Let It Go!, get a bloody grip or simply walk away.

Example 4a: Forgive! - even if you can never forget.
Just as I'm bored with 'life-pilgrims' who believe the universe revolves around their own backsides, I'm equally pissed off with the many who bear a grudge over inconsequential matters or a healthy difference of opinion.
Grow up. Just bloody well grow up!
In case you haven't noticed, there's plenty of real shit going on: if you can't handle being part of the solution, stop being part of the problem.

Example 4b: At every opportunity, work to build your communications skills!
Effective communication is something I'm pretty passionate about.
If nothing else, be clear in what you say or write - and make every effort to keep everyone in the loop.
In social and commercial situations alike, failure to do all these things amounts to a serious deficiency.
No more, no less.
So fix it. This is not difficult!
To avoid prolixity I'll move on with this humble offering: Imagine a world where all communications were both clear (in every sense) and sensitive to others.

Example 5: Power is over-rated.
Take yourself in hand before you even think about pushing other people around.
Shed your personal agenda and move on to seek collegiate or co-operative solutions.
Believe me, being relatively 'powerless' is a truly liberating experience: having 'nothing to lose' sets you free!

Example 5a: Be humble. Listen.
It's human nature to assume a default position (or defence) based on our knowledge-base and past experiences and prejudices; humility enables us to develop (evolve) as human beings.
I have a good friend who occasionally seeks my advice on handling 'difficult' clients or improving his customer service - and I'm happy to share what I know.
Every so often he offers up a strategy that I hadn't considered before: I'd be a complete fool not to listen, to value his contribution and add it to my toolbox.

Example 6: Tell the truth! with minimum collateral damage.
The truth means a lot to me and, as I gracefully age, its importance grows.
Honesty isn't for everyone, nor will it ever be - and that's a shame, because (again) telling the truth is liberating.
That said, try to Tell the truth with full empathy with - respect for - the feelings of others.
Occasionally this won't be possible, so do your best.

Example 6a: Speak up! Stand up! Be courageous.
When you know you're right, don't take any shit.
If something's clearly WRONG in the world, in your community, in your family, have your say and make it stop!
If something's clearly GOOD in the world, in your community, in your family, have your say proclaim its worth!
Literally half the world's problems could be solved pretty rapidly if we all had the guts to speak … vote … act the way we think.
Have the guts to take a position and take a risk.

Example 7: ALWAYS keep your promises!
My daughter and I have shared definitions for undertakings.
There's a 'Hannah Promise' - like Mary Poppins' 'pie-crust promise': easily made, easily broken.
Then there's the 'Daddy Promise' - written in stone; a commitment never to be breached.
Critical where kids are concerned, I reckon Daddy Promises should apply to grownups too!
Incidentally, NEVER show up at 6.30 to pick up your kids from childcare that closes at 6.00.
This is a complete betrayal of trust (and really ought to be capital offence).

Example 7a: ALWAYS meet your daily commitments to the highest possible standard.
Return phone calls, emails and messages promptly.
Never let anyone down, regardless of the relationship.
For example, being a 'volunteer' is no excuse for unreliability. If you can't deliver as a professional, just don't offer.
Develop a service model for family, friends, colleagues, customers and suppliers - even strangers - that will uplift them.
Push yourself to excel at everything important you do.
Take pride in setting an example for others.

Example 8: When you're wrong, Apologise!
Don't hide, don't blame anyone, don't obfuscate!
Own up and take responsibility on the chin - and then do your darndest to make good: the apology is otherwise meaningless.
Again, yet another monkey off your back!
We all make mistakes. I should know.

Example 9: Always seek to improve.
This is a principle that helps you personally, in addition to everyone you deal with.
Taking opportunities to learn how to 'do stuff' will keep your brain functioning at its best; and help you serve your planet better.
It's not only good for you, it can be a lot of fun!

Example 10: Remain skeptical - 'cynical' if you like, but never bitter!
In case you haven't noticed, there's a large pack of idiots, parasites and users out there; not just in government, business or religion.
You're doing no one any favours by promoting them.
For example, NEVER forward an 'Alert!! / Panic NOW!!!' email without doing your homework on its veracity.
Equally, try to ensure your beliefs are underpinned by your knowledge and experiences, rather than your emotional needs.
And never forget that 'lobbyists' are paid to push an agenda. Right or Wrong - they just don't care!
Lobbyists who tell lies for money are the true scum of society as their (notional) 'integrity' is for sale to the highest bidder.

I'll reserve the right, as always, to update this post over time.
Feedback welcome.

PS. (20/12/08) I thought I'd covered pretty much everything already (in terms of the 'broad brush') but have made some inclusions above.
I've also gathered up a few extra 'values' which complement the others. There is a little built-in redundancy so bear with me:
Strive to be perceptive in every sense of the word: your physical presence and movement, your driving habits, your awareness of the needs (vulnerability?) of others in all situations;
Be courteous at every opportunity (I see courtesy as empowerment rather than servility);
Be willing to protect (or simply support) those who need it - yes indeed, sometimes you'll need to take a risk and reach out;
Try to ensure, within your ability to do so, that everyone gets a fair go - even if it's only their fair share;
Learn to lose gracefully - you can't win 'em all (and you shouldn't!);
Be patient! - not everyone will automatically absorb and understand what you require of them (and why should they?) - the more you invest, the better the return;
Embrace Diversity! Differences! Debate! - cultural or philosophical differences should never divide people of goodwill! and the bastards who are screwing up our planet - screwing with our lives - thrive on division!;
DON'T WHINGE! - 'debrief' by all means, cos it's a great safety valve, but (FFS) KNOW when to STOP!

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