Picture yourself walking into your favorite grocery store and seeing the usual smiling face greeting you a friendly hello. As you stroll through the maze of produce aisles, frustration builds because you can’t seem to find the last special ingredient your family recipe calls for. Thankfully there is a store associate nearby and you ask him to help you locate your missing ingredient. The store associate knows the store doesn’t carry it, however instead of saying “I can’t help you,” he asks you to tell him why you need it. His eyes light up as he instantly recognizes the recipe you describe and he suggests a substitute that he has used in the past and has worked for his family. You gladly take the alternative ingredient and leave the store ready to conquer the meal for your big family dinner.
Imagine how you would feel if the store employee simply said “sorry I can’t help you,” and didn’t take the time to listen, emphasize, and discover what you really needed? The resolution would not be positive as you would have felt stressed out, scrambled to run to another store, defeated, hopeless?
You can make a difference by helping your associates offer the same positive experience to people they interact with on a daily basis by training them on four key steps to handling requests or complaints: listening, empathizing, discovering, and resolving.
- The saying goes: we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Listening, and really hearing what a person is saying, is one of the most important communication skills someone can possess. Some great tips to show a person you are really listening to them include using non-verbal skills such as nodding and making eye contact and verbal skills such as simply saying “I hear you.” When a person is done talking, you can take listening a step further to ensure you understood what you heard by asking, “what I hear you saying is that the floors have a sticky feel when you walk on them.” This adds confirmation that what you heard is actually what they said.
- Empathy, or understanding where the person is coming from, can help associates have a positive mindset on situations. If it is hard for them to understand or put themselves in the other person’s shoes, making up a story can help change your associate’s mindset. For example, a first year college student complains that her dorm room furnace is too noisy. If it’s hard for your associate to empathize with her, he can imagine a story that maybe the college student is used to sleeping in her quiet bedroom at home and is feeling homesick. Making up a story and changing their mindset will help your associates empathize with the people they connect with daily.
- Like the grocery store associate who asked simple questions to understand the situation better, your associates can do the same. How many times have you gone down a path of fixing a problem only to find out that the actual problem was a different one? For example, your associate receives a complaint about a noisy vacuum from the building tenant. She isn’t exactly sure what they mean by that so she asks to hear more and why it’s important. She discovers that there is an important weekly meeting taking place when she is vacuuming. Instead of assuming the solution is to purchase a quieter vacuum, she discovers that the problem can be solved by changing the vacuuming schedule which will make everyone happy.
- Communicating the resolution and explaining why the problem occurred, when it is going to be fixed, and how it will be fixed provides an expectation of when the request or complaint will be resolved and gives peace of mind. Without this step, the complaint or request could repeat itself due to the lack of communication which ultimately affects productivity.
Oh, and don’t forget to add a smile to the entire process. A smile is the most important part of your associate’s uniform. Always showing a friendly smile will non-verbally communicate that your associates are kind, caring, welcoming and there to help!
Here at Nichols, not only do we know the importance of listening, empathizing, discovering and resolving to provide you with solutions to make your facility clean and health and to safely ship your packages but to also provide you and your team tools so that you can in turn can provide a great experience to people you interact with every day. As a matter of fact, we have a Customer Service Training coming up on October 17 at the Nichols Expo. We hope to see you there!