Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Positive Power of Names

After a customer service and retention workshop for faculty and administrators in Virginia, Prof. Bob Loomis of EPCI in Roanoke provided a powerful example of the value of names. Prof. Loomis was responding to a discussion of the Give a Name – Get a Name technique. (more on this by clicking on the underlined words)

It seems that he supplements his teaching income by doing some computer repair and consulting for businesses on the side. He will go to a business and do all he can to repair a computer or software issue right then and there. From what I can figure, he is rather successful at doing so. (People in the Roanoke, VA take note – Bob Loomis at EPCI)

There are however times when he has to take the computer back with him to make the repairs. In those situations, he provides solid service by leaving a computer behind so the customer has something to use. This loaner, he has named Freddie since it travels with him on all calls just in case and he is with it a lot. Though Bob checks it each time to maker sure it is fine, there have been a few times when the loaner may develop a problem since it is used by many different people with different preferences and networks. He can be sure he will hear about it rather quickly.

One time Bob had mentioned to a client that he was going to leave “Freddie” behind as a loaner. The client was a bit confused until he realized that Freddie was a computer. Well, the next day Bob received a call from the client. “Freddy is having a bad day” he said. Not “the damn machine isn’t working right.” A kind, understanding “Freddie is having a bad day” instead.

The client was not dealing with a soulless machine after all but with Freddie (a soulless machine but with a name.) Ever since that experience, Bob does not leave a loaner computer behind but lends the customer “Freddy”. Complaints with Freddy have dropped and Bob attributes it to giving people a machine with a human name.

It has been pointed out to me at times that it is true that Give a Name – Get a Name may not work with spineless, ineffectual soulless machines and tools with personality deficits who have names and work at schools. There are some folks that have less personality than a computer. For working with people who have less personality and customer ability than Freddie, Principle 15 may be worth considering even if you know their name.

Not everyone is capable of providing good customer service

That does not mean they may not have value somewhere

For a copy of the 15 Principles, just click here.

That does not mean they do have value either but that is a decision you make. Just get them away from interacting with your customers. Or your students and colleagues will develop names for them that are not very flattering, though possibly very indicative. When a person has a name like Quasimoto, The Thing or The %$#&#! take that's a powerful statement too -of the person's ability to negatively affect customer service. Move them away from people.

By the way, check your job descriptions and position requirements. It may be that you are creating some of your own problems by the way you hire. Being too mean to work at the DMV is not a job qualification one should seek for those who provide customer service.

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