Thursday, November 02, 2006

Community-cating With Angry Students - A Technique

Last week I did a workshop at the ECPI Technical College group’s conference. To their great credit ECPI, a 14 campus group of career colleges in Virginia and the Carolinas was focusing on increasing student learning – a topic most every school should be looking at. They had read my article Learn and Earn; not Churn and Burn and Embrace the Oxymoron. So they asked me to address the conference. I was providing information on the value of customer service in the teaching/learning process and how it adds to student accomplishment, the increased enjoyment of teaching, as well as the school’s retention and thus revenue.

One of the techniques I was teaching is called “Give a name; Get a name." This is a technique that should always be used and is especially useful when confronting an angry student or client. It is just what is says. The service provider creates a “community of two” by entering the interaction by giving his or her first name to the student. The second name can be given but only after a solid pause to provide the first name precedence and primacy in the strudent's mind. The second can then be used as a reinforcement to the first name.

“Hi. I’m Neal............ (PAUSE) Neal Raisman. VP of Somethingorother.”
Then the person asks for the student’s name

“And you are….?”

If the student is angry he or she will often respond with “Pissed off."

"Okay Pissed What can I help you solve?” (More on why this response in another blog but need to stay on topic here.)

Once first names have been exchanged, a small, maybe tentative, but real community of two is formed. If nothing else, it is much more difficult for an angry student to retain the full level of anger when you have exchanged first names. You are no longer just a nameless representative of the anonymous school. The YOU or U, if you will. You are a person with a name who could be a friend. Think about it. The first step in forming a relationship is almost always the first name exchage. Picture a bar, a party or any social occassion. There is someone you wish to meet. You check your breath to see if you need a mint. Walk over and introduce yorself by starting with your first name. Not the last unless you wish to create some formal distance like in a business relationship. And here, with students, the goal is a freindly, more social interaction.

It is much harder to be angry with a real person with a name than an entity, a thing that has no feelings to hurt and no heart to break. So, giving and getting a name can defuse anger and allow you to provide better customer service, actually solve a problem and not get yelled at and inslated as the representative of the school.

I knew that this worked with people but I found out from a faculty member at one of the ECPI branches that it also works with machines! Check out the posting “Howie is Having a Bad Day.”

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