Reality Check: Instead of Head-Banging…

You may have heard that “customer service ain’t what it used to be.” This may be true. While I’m not convinced that poor service is universal, I’ve certainly heard anecdotes that indicate appalling lack of care. It’s enough to make you want to bang your head against the wall, right?
However, you and I know that there’s only one person who gets hurt when we bang our heads—that would be us. Besides, we have other choices available.
Let’s compare the experiences of Lani and Leah. They have the same problem; they need to get information from a large, impersonal organization. The information is important, and both Lani and Leah understand the seriousness of their situation.
So far, Lani has had a terrible experience. She’s made multiple phone calls. She has gotten the run-around and is no further ahead than when she started. With each call, she becomes more frustrated.
How is Lani reacting? One of her responses has been to get angry and lash out. She has also shared her frustration and complaints with anyone who will listen. At times, when the problem seems overwhelming, Lani has withdrawn, took to her bed, and tried to put it out of her mind.
Those are all understandable reactions. Are they effective? Let’s take a look. Venting can feel good at the time. However, it’s one-way communication, meaning that when we’re venting, we’re not listening. Thus, it can alienate people who are genuinely trying to help, and in the worst case, result in no further communication whatsoever. Thus, no solutions.
Discussing her complaints and frustrations may or may not be helpful. If Lani uses those conversations to explore ideas, she may get helpful insights and suggestions. If she uses them to repeat her frustrations, she may end up only reinforcing them in her own mind, plus provide a reason for people to want to avoid talking to her. That won’t help.
Withdrawing may be somewhat effective, again depending on how Lani approaches it. Some problems do go away with time, but let’s assume that Lani’s isn’t one of them. In her case, withdrawing could be effective if she uses the time productively to regroup, reinvigorate herself, strategize, and research solutions. However, if her withdrawal is one of defeat and avoidance, then time will pass but the problem won’t.
Now let’s take a look at Leah’s experience. Like Lani, Leah has made multiple phone calls, and like Lani, she hasn’t made much progress thus far. However, Leah has made a habit of keeping a record of the names of people she has spoken with, along with dates and the key points of conversation. Her record is a simple notebook, but having one spot for information means that Leah doesn’t need to sort through scattered scraps of paper. Everything—phone numbers and details—is together. While they might sound insignificant, it’s these pieces of information that will help Leah develop relationships.
Whenever Leah follows up, she knows the name of the person she was talking to, the date, and what was discussed or promised. Leah can hold the person accountable without being aggressive or unpleasant. Leah has also found that when people realize that she follows up, they respond with accountability and professionalism.
How we communicate can make a huge difference in the results we get. Would you like to share your tips for effective communication?

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