Customer service is all about emotion

As part of a course I was running last week, I did a section on Customer Service.

It’s good fun (mostly) and perfectly illustrates what customer service is all about.  Having said that we don’t always get emotional reactions which are quite so strong as we did last week.

This is what happened.

I set up an exercise that we call Love Story/Horror Story.

I ask one group to discuss a number of positive customer service scenarios they’ve been in as the customer – they are the recipient of the service.  Once they’ve decided on the best story, they draw it out; like a story board for a movie.

There’s a particular reason I get them to do that – I just can’t tell them at the time because it spoils the outcome.  Sometimes there is a little bit of persuasion required!

The reason I get them to draw, by the way, is quite simple.  It means the logic of the written word is removed and they can’t bullet point things.  Instead they have to concentrate on the most basic messages, which is usually the emotion they are feeling.

On this particular day, the negative story related to a lady who took her car to get new tyres and a few other bits and pieces.  On the way home, the car started rattling so she took it back.  Apparently the man said there was nothing wrong with it and, probably because she was a woman, she was over-reacting and she should really stick to her rightful place in the kitchen and leave man’s work to the men.

For some strange reason an argument ensued and she ended up taking the car somewhere else.  The new mechanic (a slightly more reasonable fella) explained that the work done was seriously sub-standard and the car was a death trap.

Strangely, this turned out not to be the worst thing in the story teller’s eyes.  It was the way the man made her feel when he told her to run along.

Now, as she was telling the story, her face went red, her hands started shaking, her voice went up a whole number of octaves and eventually tears of frustration came.

I asked her how long ago she’d found herself in that situation.

Eighteen years.

Eighteen years ago and it still brought her to tears.

Where was she when I got her to tell her story..?  The years just melted away and she was right back in that garage being talked to in that way.

When we go through a service experience, positive or negative, we don’t reset back to neutral; we pick up the next service interaction where we left off the last one, which is why things going wrong isn’t necessarily an issue.

It’s how the customer feels about your response.

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