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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 09-Dec-12


Sunday 09-December-12

Getting good service

Have you ever sat on the phone for hours, trying to get some semblance of assistance from a remote service agent. I had that pleasure recently when my phone provider sent me a letter saying They had a request to terminate the service and I would be charged for this. Rather annoying, huh? So I called the service line and after navigating some stupid automated stuff, I at last got to speak with a human, though they sounded far away and their command of the English language was immediately obvious as lacking.

My first instinct was just to get mad and vent my frustrations. But although this might have made me feel temporarily better, I bit my tongue. My first task was to connect with the person so, when they said "Hello, my name is Michael", I quickly interjected "Hello Michael, now Michael who?" This not only used their name twice to start the connection, I grabbed control of the conversation. And Michael let me, because talking about yourself is one of the most fun things you can do. So he said "Hinder". "What a lovely name," I said. "can you spell that?" praising him set up a social exchange so he felt obliged to spell his name as requested, both reinforcing who was in charge and sending a subtle signal that I was taking notes. And indeed I would occasionally stop the subsequent conversation and ask for details of critical points, pausing as I wrote it down.

So pretty soon, they had the message loud and clear that I was a reasonable guy who required careful attention. Many callers are cross, stressed or in a hurry, all of which makes it easy to control them and, if desired, to fob them off with a delay or some task. No chance of that with me!

After the setup, I gave a short, clear problem statement. "Michael, I've received a letter saying your company has had a termination request and may charge me for this. I have not made such a request." This was followed by a clear commitment request: "Can you help me resolve this today." Now he was locked in and we discussed the situation. I helped this along by noting that this was a threatening letter which had distressed my wife. All very calm and friendly, but with the message that we had been seriously wronged and that I would ensure the situation would be corrected. I also said that I didn't blame Michael, reassuring him that I wasn't about t start blaming him. This of course helped motivate him further.

In the end he did sort it out to my satisfaction and I praised him for this, being specific about what I expected to happen (and not happen) next. "Michael, thank you for your help today in ensuring our service will continue without charge."

To help memorize this approach, you could call this 'The 3C Method':
1. Connect with them, including using their name.
2. Clarity in stating the problem, its effects and your expectations.
3. Commitment-building to ensure they get things done.

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