Customer Service- Yes That Was Your Out-Loud Voice

shoutingOver a two day time period this week I was presented with many examples for this article.

I was asked to wait at a store because the employee was checking something on their personal phone.

My best friend works for a bank. She noticed a discrepancy on her online statement so she called the appropriate number to discuss it with them. The first woman she talked to could not pull her up by her account number. After several attempts it finally pulled up and the agent told her, “Oh, there you are, you must have read your number to me wrong.”

She was then transferred to another agent, who she explained again that she was an employee and had seen a discrepancy. He asked why she was calling now; why not wait until she got her statement – that is what most people do. My best friend is not most people. Then he began asking her a list of questions. One was “employer”, she said she was an employee of the bank and he responded, “Yeah, I heard you the first time.”

I asked her if her issue ever got resolved after all this fun and she said she was not sure. Almost 40 minutes on a call being told she was reading numbers wrong, calling at the wrong time and even being a bother for answering a question and she did not even know if her problem was resolved.

A family member of mine had medical issues this week. We had to go to the doctor to get two medications and received directions to take one Monday evening and come back Tuesday morning to take the other.

Now, let me say this, this family member is a cancer survivor and has been dealing with medical issues for 14 years. We are no stranger to medication, instructions and doctors’ offices.

When I went to get the prescriptions filled I was treated to a tremendous amount of conversation at the pharmacy. One tech ignored a customer standing right in front of them and held up their hand when the customer said, “Excuse me”. Another was complaining about a customer not understanding her id card and what a pain it was to explain it. It was a hodgepodge of disrespecting customers and a general feeling of not wanting to be there.

Tuesday we arrived at the doctor’s office and handed the technician the medicine as instructed. She looked at us and said it was the wrong one. The instructions she had were completely opposite of what we were told. When the practitioner came in and the technician apprised her of the situation, her response was, “I knew that was going to happen, I would have put money on it. You misunderstood what I said.”

Throughout all these adventures my best friend and I wanted to scream out, “I CAN HEAR YOU! You’re using your out-loud voice!”

It is so easy in an age of being able to talk anywhere, any time with anyone that we tend to forget two things in having this amazing technology: space and professionalism.

We tend to forget that not only can the person on the other end of the line hear you, so can everyone else in the general vicinity. This then lends itself to one on one conversations. The technicians at the pharmacy, I believe, thought that because they were talking to each other no one else could hear them in that big open space.

The advantages to technology is you can attend business meetings remotely, even dressed in your pjs – not that I have ever done that. But that relaxed environment flows to our in person interactions. Responding to a customer with “Yeah” instead of ‘yes’; blaming, dismissing and forgetting the most common ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are more prevalent.

One side note: normally this behavior is attributed to young people. I am in my mid 40s, I officially get to say young people when talking about 20-somethings, yay me.

But in every one of these instances, no one was under mid 30s. We cannot blame bad behavior on the young.

The difficulty is we are not consciously aware when we are behaving in such a manner. Don’t think anyone can hear you? Try sneezing. That is a phenomenon that I love, you can sneeze in a store and people three isles away will chime out, “bless you”.

The bigger issue is this: each customer service agent, no matter what profession or title is a representative of not only themselves, but their organization. The results can mean lost customers and revenues.

There are lots of banks, pharmacies and retail stores to choose from – why would I go back to one in which I felt like a bother or burden to those being paid to provide service? Who wants to feel disrespected or under-appreciated?

As a manager or leader it can be quite difficult to address these issues, as stated before, we are normally not aware of our own behavior. You also do not want to come across as a micro-manager.

One thing I found most helpful and impactful when working in an office with individuals that exhibited these behaviors was to address it immediately, in a non-confrontational and quiet manner by saying, “That was your out-loud voice.”

They were normally caught off guard and I would explain that someone else could hear the comment or that I know they were probably thinking the comment in their head, but it was said out-loud. It was gentle enough to not be confrontational; quiet and directly to them with no other employee hearing so as not to be embarrassing and with a touch of humor to allow them to accept the concept without feeling berated.

We need to reclaim our space and our professionalism. I am not throwing stones; this is something that I am very mindful of because I have also made a slip in judgment about being in a public area thinking no one was around but me. There are even times that my boyfriend or best friend will tell me, “That was your out-loud voice”.

I believe detaching from personal technology can do wonders. Few companies do not allow personal phones in their work space so it is up to us to limit and monitor ourselves. We need to put down our phones now and then.

My best friend and boyfriend have made an incredible difference for me in this area. When we spend time together, the phones are put away. It makes us more conscious of the time together, our location and space. Conversations are better, events are more fun and interaction with others more enjoyable. It helps remind us that we are all in a shared space.

Challenge yourself to keep your phone put away during an event, lunch, dinner, shopping or our running around. Be fully engaged with where you are and see if you do not notice the disconnect in others and their interactions. Then ask yourself, “Am I doing that? And more importantly, am I doing that to my customers?”

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