Customer Service is So Much More Than an Act – It’s About the Feeling
While attending the Rocky Mountain Shopping Center Association luncheon November 5th, 2013, I was talking with Steve Sessions (The Sessions Group) about our industry and about training students (and those new to the industry) on how to provide good customer service. As the conversation went on, I made the comment that customer service is more than just an act, it’s a feeling; Steve wholeheartedly agreed.
True customer service involves feeling! You have to care about what you are doing and how it affects the person for whom you are doing it. For example, have you ever called your bank, or the cable company, only to get someone who is so very obviously reading a script? They are saying all the right words, but there is zero emotion behind those words? Imagine a canned operator voice, “I’m so sorry Ms. Jackson, I understand your frustration. Let me see if there’s something I can do to get that resolved for you.” Now imagine that same sentence being said by someone who cares about doing their job well, who truly wants to help, and who really does care about helping you find a solution! All of a sudden, those exact same words are received very differently and you feel like you matter, rather than being just another account number and another caller in a sea of a million.
We, in the real estate management industry, need to keep this in mind when we are dealing with our owners and our tenants. I know, it happens, the phone is ringing off the hook, the e-mails are coming in so fast you can’t read them and respond before another five (or 20) have landed in your in-box; however, while, to you and me, there are a million work orders coming and there’s not enough man-power to address them as quickly as we want, we must remember that our tenants and owners don’t see all of that. To them, they are calling with one simple matter that they need help getting addressed. I don’t know about you, but when I have just a few calls coming in during a day, and when the e-mails are slow (it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen) and a tenant calls with an issue with which they need help, I am glad to help, I want to help, I want to drop everything and make their world better; however, when I have a million calls coming in at once, just as many e-mails, and people stopping at my office door with questions on how to handle something, that “one simple matter” feels like it’s enough to push me over the edge. The key, I’ve learned, is to compartmentalize; to accept that if I want to do my job well, and want to provide excellent customer service, I can only do one thing at a time. Sometimes that might just mean that I have to let calls go to voicemail and that I can’t respond to every e-mail the second it comes in (which, of course, goes against my innate desire to “please all”).
When I quit trying to be all things, to all people, all at once, I am better able to provide great customer service and, all of a sudden, that one call goes from pushing me over the edge to being just “one item” that I can help get resolved and, in doing so, can make that owner or tenant feel important. Additionally, several years ago, I had a great manager who taught me to “just breathe” and to take a step back (emotionally, not physically) to help me keep my wits about me; the idea being that doing so would allow me to approach that “one call” as if it was the only call I received all day. These few tips have proven invaluable. Although this may be an unreasonable expectation, I strive to handle every call, every time, as though it is the most important call of my day. Keeping these ideas in mind helps me provide a higher level of customer service for my owners and my tenants. If you were to ask my tenants (and owners) if I care, the majority would say, “Yes, because she takes the time to listen to me, tries to understand the issue fully, and then communicates a solution in a timely fashion.” Because I do care, and am not just reading a script, that has all the right words but none of the emotion, owners and tenants feel like they matter and the outcome is great customer service.