World-Class Service: Taking Ownership

When my daughter was just four or five years old, she had a quirky little habit that I loved. I would ask her to do something – anything – and she would respond with an enthusiastic, "Sure, Dad! I’ll do it!" It was wonderful just to have her acknowledge my request, assure me she would do it, then watch her scamper off to get it done.

My how things change.

My daughter is now 15. She’s a great kid, but she sure doesn’t respond to requests like she used to. Ask her to do something – anything – and I’m lucky to get acknowledgment of my existence, let alone an assurance that she’ll complete the task. Any scampering I hear will likely be her scampering out the door to hang out at the coffee shop with friends – forgetting to do what I asked.

I notice a parallel when I’m analyzing phone calls. How nice it is to make your request of Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) and have them acknowledge your question and assure you they’ll help:

Customer: "Hi, I’m calling to get a balance on my account?"

CSR: "Sure! I can get that balance for you. May I have your account number please?"

What I hear too often is the attitude of avoidance and apathy:

Customer: "Hi, I’m calling to get a balance on my account?"

CSR: (pause) Account number?

It’s one of the small service elements that makes a big difference – not just in the call center, but in life as well. When was the last time you responded to a co-workers request with "I’d be happy to"? Have you responded to your spouse or child’s recent request with a "Sure! I can do that for you."?

Maybe you should try it. You know what they say, "what goes around comes around".

  7 comments for “World-Class Service: Taking Ownership

  1. February 26, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    My mom had a similar story, she reminded me how as I child I would always say, “I’ll be glad to!”, but that as a teen-ager I changed to become ever so surly.
    I take that with a grain of salt, because my mom tended to be controlling through emotions, kind of the protestant version of Ray Barone’s mom.
    Back to the post. There comes a time when all of the quality control practices in the world are unable to change the most important part of being a CSR: the motivation to help people.
    Yes, this motivation wanes and waxes, but the genuine desire to help people is the most important thing to cultivate in CSR’s. It exists in their character, their desires, and can be nurtured by Quality Control Practices. But I think it is nurtured most of all by a management that cares about them and a good incentive system.
    I have known many CSR’s that don’t care because they don’t think that management cares about them. Its hard to overcome that…
    Good post Tom.

  2. February 27, 2007 at 6:55 am

    You make a great point, AC. There is a direct connection between management that cares for both customer and CSR – and the motivation to care about the job.
    Thanks for the comment.

  3. February 27, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Tom: Isn’t it amazing what a couple of additional words can do for the interaction. I suspect the difficulty is in “legislating” this response in a call center setting. Makes the hiring step that much more important huh? Good post!

  4. February 27, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I’ve been thinking more about this. It fascinates me how much of your business is not about just making people better CSR’s, but making them better people.
    Adding ownership to everything you do, it directly relates to many biblical, and other religious concepts. It expresses the idea that everything you do is not simply an action to make money, but an expression of the goodness you choose to express.
    Sure, working in a call center is answering the phones and selling widgets, but everything is more than it appears, and every action, even working in a call center, relates to who people are trying to ultimately become.
    Sorry, did not mean to get carried away, just seeing these things differently lately.

  5. February 27, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    Wow, AC – I like your train of thought. I, for one, am a firm believer in the fact that my job is not ultimately about money, but about people. The same behaviors that make people better in their relationships will make them better CSRs. From time to time I’ve had people come up to me after training and say something like, “What I learned today not only helped me in my job – but I can apply it to my marriage, as well.”
    YES! That’s why I love my job.

  6. March 2, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Friday Night Links

    First up tonight, our customer service entry is from Tom Vander Wel, at QAQnA who talks about how customer service reps can improve their service AND make their own work more enjoyable. In the retail category, Carol Carter at Retail…

  7. March 3, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Or even worse, the conversation goes like this:
    Me: Hi, I’m calling to get my account balance.
    CSR: Ok, I can do that for you, but did you know you could go online and get it?
    Now, what I usually say is this…
    Me: Yeah, I know.
    What I’d really like to say is this…
    Me: What do you take me for? An idiot? Of course I know that, and I go online to get my balance all the time… and if I had access to the Internet right now, I WOULD go online to get my balance, but I don’t have access… so QUIT WASTING MY TIME AND INSULTING MY INTELLIGENCE… and tell me my balance!

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