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 my book 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 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 be used in all customer service situations. It is especially useful when confronting an angry student or client. Give a name-Get a name 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 surname name can be given but only as a reinforcement of the first name. And after a pause so the first name takes precedence and primacy in the listener's mind.
Last names are for business interactions or to place yourself in a power relationship to the student. Like what we do in classrooms. "Refer to me as Mr. or Dr. Somebody while I demean you by using only your diminutive first name."
“Hi. I’m Neal.............. 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, yet real community of two is formed. If nothing else, it is much more difficult for an angry student to retain a 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 a first name. You could even be a friend when I have your first name. The exchange of first names is the initial step in creating a friendly relationship. Just picture a bar or social gathering where you wish to get to know someone. What do you do after checking your breath as you walk over to the person? "Hi, my name is ......"
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 insulted as the nameless 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 “Freddy is Having a Bad Day.”