One day at my local grocery store I got the definite feeling there was some customer service training going on. There were the smiles and the "can I help you's", but also a blank stare just above my head. The old "how can I help you" but "please please please don't ask me anything".
So it got me thinking about what customer service really is. And I realized its all about serving people. Plain and simple. And communicating with them from a genuine and honest and real place. Hard to train. But I think not impossible.
With my teams I always started with three key words. Generosity, truthfulness and kindness. They may sound touchie feelie and not part of the business world. But why not. Business is about people, period. If we deal with people well our businesses will survive. If not, beware. So lets dig in here.
Generosity in my mind is about saying yes, whenever possible. Its about relinquishing our predilection to saying no as a defense mechanism. Of course we can still say no to someone, we have to, but if someone feels that you are open to yes, open to hearing what they have to say before making up your mind to say no, its going to be a very different conversation.
Truthfulness is even trickier. We all have our half truths; our ways of revealing just enough to convey just enough of the truth, and our message, to get our way. Telling the full truth without hiding, couching, or holding back is incredibly empowering. And folks can feel it. It leads to trust, understanding, and great communication. Without truthfulness everything gets way too complicated. Keep it simple, speak the truth.
Kindness it the linchpin in my mind. One can easily speak the truth and be brutal. Speaking the truth with kindness is the key. It allows us to speak from our heart, and allows others to then hear with theirs. After all, we listen with our ears, but we hear with our hearts. So being kind means to care about how someone is hearing the truth. Its not about not speaking the truth, its not about bullshitting someone to save their feelings, and its not about finding a "nice" way to ignore them. Its about being yourself and meeting them in the moment.
When we can hold these three principles in our hearts, and bring them into our interactions with customers [not to mention friends, spouses, and family] we transform our interactions. We transform ourselves. This is true customer service. And its as radical as it gets.