How to Get Great Customer Service

The late great Zig Ziglar made it a habit to greet people with a friendly “Good morning!” no matter what time of day it was.

Why? 90% of the time, he said, he got “Good morning” right back. This little trick reminded him of one important truth: what you send out is what you’ll receive back.

I had a great example of this principle just this week. I’m refinancing my mortgage and had some inconvenience (yes, I still have a mortgage — don’t worry though, I’m working on it with more intensity than the Jersey Shore cast works on their tans).

If you haven’t read a news article about housing in the last 20 years, you might not know this, but lots of folks aren’t exactly pleased with the mortgage industry or the service they receive from mortgagors. You can find images all over the internet of flowcharts regarding the ownership of an individual’s mortgage. Large banks are not typically known for their stellar customer service anyway, and the heat gets turned up quite a bit when it’s a person’s biggest expense that’s on the table. So when I say I “had some inconvenience,” that could be a precursor to a lengthy tale of misery and torment.

So what happened to me? When my wife and I got married, we purchased a house, mortgaged through MetLife. We were very conservative since it was a big commitment and we were just settling into post-college working life, so we got a 30 year term. We’re more comfortable with our finances now (thank you, budgeting) and mortgage rates are ridiculously low, so we decided to refinance to a 15 year term at a much lower rate.

Well, during the refinance process, MetLife decided to stop servicing mortgages, so all existing mortgages were sold to Chase (ugh). This means not only do I have to deal with the details of refinancing, I also have to track down new mortgage information from Chase just so it can be closed. If only MetLife had waited another month, this would have been a whole lot easier. Poor me!

And yet, you know what it took in the end to resolve the situation? Two phone calls, about 5 minutes long each. I called Chase with my previous mortgage information, got my new mortgage number, asked a few clarification questions, then called my new broker and relayed the information. On both ends, I got fast, effective customer service. Why do you suppose that is?

I’ll tell you, thanks for asking. First, instead of getting emotional about the inconvenience, I just did what needed to be done. Sure, I could’ve been upset about the situation. I could have complained to any party involved about just how put out I’ve been. But what does that accomplish? Nothing. It just makes it harder to do what I would have had to do anyway. Second, I was nice to the people I talked to, and they were friendly and helpful right back. Common sense, right? The Golden Rule? And yet you’d be surprised at how livid people can get at how bad their life is and how the world owes them a favor.2013-03-06_Customer_Service_Representative

Trust me, I know all about this. I was a customer service representative for over a year (although I don’t look quite as stunning as the dude in that picture). I talked to 1,000 people a day for a year. I know better than most that the way you approach a service interaction majorly affects the service you’ll receive. I also learned how to diffuse anger and keep people calm. It’s a powerful skill on both sides of the equation. I don’t think I’ve had a bad customer service experience in the last 5 years. I’ve even gotten compliments from representatives about how easy I am to deal with. Compliments from customer service representatives. Who knew they were people too?

The point is, you know how to treat people well, so just freaking do it. When we get overly emotional or personally offended about little things, we forget the most basic rules of courtesy and decent communication. Give kindness to get kindness. Give service to get service. It’s as simple as that.

Hurts So Good

Today’s post is brought to you by Boundaries, the book I started this week and that you’re therefore stuck with for the next several posts. Enjoy, and welcome to November!

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Have you ever been hurt?

Your answer to that is without a doubt “Yes,” but there are many different ways of taking it. Someone may say yes — I broke my arm when I was 10. Somebody else might say yes — my partner was unfaithful. Hurt runs the gamut from minor to major, from physical to emotional, from harmful to beneficial.

…wait. What?

Have you ever dislocated a joint? Your arm is a-floppin’ around out of socket, can’t do anything, and is in immense pain. Then they set it. I’ve never experienced this, but I take it from action movies that it’s about the most grueling pain ever. Sylvester Stallone can probably shrug it off but most of the rest of us can’t.

How about dental work? When the dentist has to drill out that cavity, it sure hurts. Of course, the purpose is to prevent your tooth from rotting out and causing the Black Plague epidemic in your mouth. On the flip side, did the candy that caused the cavity hurt when you ate it? Nope, it felt pretty good, didn’t it? But it sure wasn’t what you actually needed.

Now, have you ever been told your attitude was poor? Maybe you’ve been told that the way you’re handling something in your life is immature or self-destructive.

When dealing with our own hurts as well as with our ability to inflict hurt upon others, we need to separate temporary hurt for the eventual good from hurt for the sake of hurt. In other words, we need to separate hurt from harm. Hurt is a fleeting feeling, something short-lived and ephemeral. Harm is a long-term consequence that can change your life.

When you’re feeling hurt, especially when it’s an emotional or relational hurt inflicted by a friend or loved person, you should investigate whether the hurt was meant in love, for your eventual benefit, or for your harm. If someone is willing to put the truth on the table, they’re willing to sacrifice your opinion of them in the moment for your benefit later on. That’s a mature action. That’s a true friend. Listen to them. If someone hurt you with the sole intention to harm, then they’re petty and childish, and shouldn’t have any control over your emotions or your future. Ignore them. Develop the personal maturity to recognize the difference.

Sometimes being told that something is your fault helps to remind you that you’re in control. Maybe you screwed up. That’s okay, if you had the power to get here, you have the power to get out.

A good friend in high school once grabbed me by the collar, threw me against a wall, and told me he loved me, but my attitude lately had sucked. What were my options in that moment? I could fight back… who was he to tell me off? Or I could ignore him… who cares what he thinks? But this was a trusted friend, and I knew he had my best interests in mind. In light of that truth, I had no option but to investigate my attitude. He was right. It sucked. And he was willing to risk hurting me and our connection in order to benefit my future. These are the kinds of people we need to associate with. Luckily I got to return the favor to him (and probably back and forth several times over the course of our friendship). Having accountability with your friends, coworkers, and romantic partners is key in good relationships and in developing yourself.

So, when dealing with friends, peers, people in general, whether you’re the hurtee or the hurter, remember to be aware of the difference between hurt and harm. It might not happen exactly in the moment of conflict, right when the doctor pops your arm back in socket or drills your cavity, but remember that sometimes hurt can hurt so good.