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The Smiling Customer is You!

The Smiling Customer is You!

Lifehack for the day: Make your customer service experience vastly better for only the cost of your attention.

Here’s an example.

In meeting the demands of my coaching business, I fly inter-island frequently between four of Hawaii’s larger and most populated islands. I’ve racked up enough miles to normally access the up front aisle seat selections with my online bookings, and my road warrior habits are pretty fine-tuned at this point; I’m primed to dig into some mobile work I’ve packed to go within mere seconds of settling into my chair and buckling my seat belt.

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By the time the flight attendant begins their safety briefing I’m well into some project work I’ve brought with me. However once they launch into their briefing, I stop whatever I’m doing, look up attentively, and give them an audience.

At first they are just going through the motions pretty distractedly, for they’ve done it a hundred times before to scores of people who pay them no heed whatsoever. They are more like automated robots than breathing human beings, except that their discomfort is so visible. They’re rushing through it to escape the boredom and indignity of it all as soon as they possibly can, and their speeding hand motions do not match up to the voice over the cabin loudspeakers meant to accompany them. They can do the most unconscious things midstream, like chewing on a wisp of hair which flicked across their lips, scratching their noses, or openly frowning at some passenger who has irritated them, so confident are they that of the dozens of people facing them all eyes are turned away.

Sometimes they’ve become so wooden in their self-preservation they will never notice I am watching them, despite my choice seat selection in what should be their most direct view point. Completely oblivious to the voice still talking about the safety card in our seat pockets, they’re scrambling to return their oxygen masks and other props to the overhead bin where they get stashed, for that will mark the end of the entire distasteful affair for them.

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However when they do notice me watching and smiling at them, something else happens. The effect is always the same.

Initially, they continue at the same let’s get this over with pace, and their eyes warily watch to see if they’ll be able to hold mine or not. I acknowledge their gaze, and keep smiling at them, now a little brighter, and they quickly take in the astounding fact that I am not just as bored as they are —I’ve actually stopped my work, my looks important work, to pay attention! Amazing; I really am watching and listening.

Now they smile back, and they begin to slow down. The robot disappears, and I can see the warmth of their very human spirit begin to surge through them. I start to see why this person was hired as the appealing face of the airline, and for the next few moments their aloha has surfaced to bask in its glory. The safety briefing has become important again. They have become important again, and the entire dynamic has changed.

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What was the difference? I was. Not me specifically, but my attention and my respect for what they were doing. We as customers can make all the difference in the world; we can effect the warm and gracious customer service experiences we want by the way we ourselves engage and participate in them.

I love when I’m able to achieve this bright spot in the monotony of a flight attendant’s day. The minutes are so few, and the result so large. The entire flight seems to go so much better after that. Hawaiian interisland flights are barely longer than 45 minutes per leg, and it’s rare that I will need any service. However should the need arise, you can be sure I get served well; my now smiling flight attendant is watching to be sure I do.

In this holiday season, where great customer service gets increasingly harder to find in the frenzy of shopping’s busiest time, help those serving you to feel you care about what they do. You can make your own magic happen too.

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Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. For more of Rosa’s ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com


More by this author

Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on August 4, 2020

The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

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1. Value Your Time

Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”

2. Know Your Priorities

Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.

3. Practice Saying No

Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

4. Don’t Apologize

A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.

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5. Stop Being Nice

Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets.

Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

6. Say No to Your Boss

Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no,” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning.

But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

7. Pre-Empting

It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

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“Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

8. Get Back to You

Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them:

“After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

At least you gave it some consideration.

9. Maybe Later

If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

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“This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.

10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

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Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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