Sunday, April 17

Employing Service Essentials

A few years ago, I published some paraphrased service philosophies from Holly Stiel's workshop article ''Duh! A No-brainer Guide to the Essence of Service'' for a hospitality trade publication that our company managed for five years.

If you are unfamiliar with the name, Holly Stiel is a renowned author, speaker and trainer who has assisted some of the world's best companies and organizations strive to provide their guests with the ultimate service. Duh! is one of her favorite acronyms: Deliver service with Understanding and Heart.* It includes 11 customer service points:

1. Caring. Care about others and you can provide a high level of service.
2. Empathy. Apathy never leads to empathy in difficult situations.
3. Willingness. Do whatever is possible to get the job done right.
4. Patience. Listen without taking it personally; respond with empathy.
5. Love. Reach the minds of your audience and operate from the heart.
6. Understanding. Know your products, services, and customers' needs.
7. Attentiveness. Pay attention to feelings; think before responding.
8. Follow through. Always do what you say you are going to do.
9. Organization. Have information readily available and updated.
10. Laughter. Find humor to serve the public with a positive attitude.
11. Appreciativeness. Always say 'thank you very much' and mean it.

These 11 points came to mind while I was mulling over some teaching evaluations last week. After reading the dozen or so positive evaluations, a few of which offered constructive criticism such as spending more time on possible employment (food for thought), I focused in on the one very critical evaluation. What struck me most about it was that it offered very little in terms of improving the class and much more in terms of character assassination.

Several years ago, the personal jabs may have struck a nerve, but nowadays I'm more concerned that one of the students walked away feeling like she didn't learn anything. Since I really do care, I sent her a quick e-mail to open up an empathetic dialogue. All I received back was more of the same: how she wanted to improve her writing in one paragraph while defending her writing in the next ''I know I can write--I worked for an esteemed CA State Senator (sic) for three years and wrote speeches, leslative (sic) and policy analysis, letters, and lobbying strategy.'' (Her typos, not mine.)

I thought about taking another stab at opening a dialogue, but then decided against it because somewhere between the conclusion of the class and the day she responded to my e-mail, our roles had changed. I was no longer the vendor as her instructor, but the customer as someone who could provide her a few job leads.

This brings me back to the opening. In an industry such as communication, communicators will often find themselves in a position where customer-vendor roles are reversed. As a result, it is always worthwhile to consider HOW we communicate as much as WHAT we communicate. There is nothing wrong with offering suggestions or sharing a difference of opinion (people have them all the time in this industry), but there may be consequences if you don't know the difference between a fair comment and a personal attack. After all, everyone is a potential customer.

* Holly's full article is available at Holly Speaks

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