Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Customer Service on the Spot: Techniques for Tough Situations

Stevie Ray is a consultant, actor, writer, and more who uses his experiences and study of humor to advise others on how to be more effective communicators. At Tuesday’s session (5/8) he recommended “whole brain” activities as way to keep all areas of one’s mind working, not just those that perform the functions we’re used to performing. This can help people be alert and ready to deal with new and unpredictable situations. We exercised our whole brains by doing a variety of activities including “throwing” words to each other and having the other person respond with the first word they thought of. We practiced trying to explain things to someone who has a different point of reference by pretending that one person was from Colonial times and the other was from modern times and trying to explain what a “car” or “airplane” was for.

Some important and interesting points from the presentation are:

1) Communication is visual as well as verbal. Try to look confident when you speak. Try to believe that you can help so that this belief is reflected in your body language and tone of voice and expressiveness when you talk. Ask someone to watch you when you talk to others and give you feedback on how you look and sound.

2) Trying to keep things light can be helpful. Laughter improves comprehension.

3) People respond to emotion more than facts. Anger comes out of fear and frustration. Sometimes an angry person coming into the library just wants to be heard and agreed with. Recognizing and acknowledging their feelings and telling them, if appropriate, you’re sorry they have to deal with this frustrating situation and you want to help them through it can be a way to defuse their tension.

4) Many times we talk to people and say “Yes..but (or however, etc.)”. This negates anything positive we’ve said or anything they are trying to contribute. People who say “no” to everything are perceived negatively. Mr. Ray suggested saying “Yes, and..(or if, so)” and then explaining the conditions which must exist to make this happen. He also said that saying “We tried that once already and it didn’t work” wasn’t a very helpful thing to say. Mr. Ray suggests saying “We tried this and it didn’t work. Tell us about your idea and we’ll see how it might work”.

5) If people don’t understand, try to explain it another way. Follow the follower-that is find out what the other person wants to know, make sure you’re answering the question. “Not to understand another man’s thinking, doesn’t make him confused.”

6) Try to think metaphorically (blending ideas, building off what someone already knows in order to connect them to the thing you’re trying to explain) not definitively (“yes” vs. “no”). Building off what someone knows helps build understanding and prevents alienating the customer by making him/her feel he/she doesn’t know anything.