Monday, November 05, 2012

Getting Service from Recalcitrant Colleagues

Good customer service does need to be given to students since they are the primary customer. But we also must provide great customer service to one another and certainly to those who work with or for us.  That surely includes helping one another, being interested in one another as people and not just as workers, and Principle of Good Academic Customer Service # 11.  
The customer is not always right. 
(to get a copy of the latest Principles of Good Academic Customer Service, just click here and ask.)

That’s right. People can be wrong. And when they do they deserve knowing so but done in a correct polite way. For example, a common problem we hear about all the time while doing work on a campus is that someone in the office will not answer the phone. That forces other people to do the phone answering. Sometimes they have to interrupt what they are doing just to answer when the other person ignored the phone even though not busy. In most every case, the person forced to answer the phone does so, grumbling all the way which by the way can make your voice sound angry and deprive the caller of a good experience. Thus creating some poor customer service for the caller. And for the person forced to answer the phone.

Keep in mind that we, ourselves are also customers. We are all customers of one another and there is a need to make sure that we are treated as customers too which means that others have to be concerned about us as we are about them.

Usually, the forced answerer will not say anything to do the lazy coworker for fear of starting an argument or hurt working relationships. But the relationship has been hurt already. Keep in mind that one of the core principles of good customer service is special equity. Service equity calls for a balance in the relationships between people in a society. And work creates little communities such as an society of those who work together. If I give I expect to get back from a relationship. If a customer is going to give time and money for example he or she expects and deserves something back for that investment, What the expect back is not just the item or service being purchased but being treated as well as they treat others; sometimes even better than they treat others as in the case of a rude customer.

Service equity demands that a society have a balance in the amount of service that all parties put into it or the community within cannot last. We know this is true from how relationships fall apart. A group of friends goes out to eat all the time but one member of the group seems to never have his hand out for the check. Or there is one person who seldom or never drives to an event but relies on others to do the driving or never takes a turn as the designated driver when drinking is part of the evening.  Or in an office, one person will never answer the phone…

The relationships fall apart finally or at least become too tense for good inner workings within the group. But again, we are usually too timid to provide good customer service to the group or even the individual by telling the cheap person it is his turn to pay the bill or to drive. Good academic customer service does include telling someone when they are not acting in an appropriate manner.  If you don’t do that you are limiting service to self which is also destructive of the relationship so it is better to try to maintain and build on the relationship than just letting it drop over an issue you could have worked through.

There is a fortune cookie I was found that covers the next step. 
“Diplomacy is telling someone to go to hell……………………………………..
and having them ask the directions. 
In other words, use diplomacy and frame the issue in a way that might be acceptable to another.

Rather than “hey answer the damn phone sometime” which will get the point across granted but might not help solve the issue while creating another, try a different tact. One more like “You know Enid, I am ending up answering the phone all the time and that is not a fair way to share the work. It would be really nice and helpful to me if you’d answer the phone more. I really appreciate it. Thanks.”

The when the phone rings next, let it go and look at Enid until she picks up the phone. If she doesn’t pick up the phone, let it go to voice mail this time. You can then say to Enid “I hope that was not an important call or one from boss’s name because I’d hate to have to explain why no one answered the phone. It would make both of us look bad. Please do your share of answering.”

When she does finally answer the phone, extend some praise. We are all in search of recognition and praise and the more you can give in the form of “Thanks for getting that. I was really tied up. I appreciate your grabbing it. Thanks.” You may even want to ask her if you can get her a cup of coffee since I am going there. Yes it is sucking up but that too is part of customer service at times to make your customer feel important and try to influence the customer’s behavior. And if you can alter the customer’s behavior to one that is more service equitable, you win too.

The author of the above article is Dr. Neal A. Raisman the leading researcher, consultant and presenter on academic customer service. His firm NRaisman & Associates provides colleges, universities and schools as well as the business that wish to work with them. The audits, training, workshops and presentation they provide have assisted over 400 colleges, universities and career schools in the US, Canada and Europe improve and increase student success and retention to graduate more alumni.

His latest book The Power of Retention: More Customer Service for Higher Education is the
best-selling book on collegiate customer service and retention and is available from The Administrator's Bookshelf. Get your copy NOW

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