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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


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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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