So many of the soft skills that I teach to new Customer Service Representatives relate to other relationships in life. I’m always trying to be a better husband and a better father, so as I teach my current class about these soft skills I couldn’t help but reflect on how they apply specifically to my relationship with my wife. As with most customer service experiences, there is always room for improvement. The same is true in marraige I think. Maybe you can relate to some of these as well.
On the phones, a caller will make up their mind if they are going to like your service or not after about the first eight seconds. If they like your attitude, they will more than likely be satisfied with your service. If they don’t like your attitude it doesn’t matter what you do, they won’t be satisfied because they will walk away with the impression that you don’t care. A positive, friendly and enthusiastic greeting is crucial to starting the relationship off on the right foot.
After a long day at work, or a long time apart, the first impression my wife gets of me will give her a general idea of how the rest of the evening will go. Depending on the first words out of my mouth, she can tell if I had (and am continuing to have) a bad day, or if I’m happy to be home and spending time with her and the kids. When I greet my wife at the door I need to remind myself to smile! Leave the office at the office. Let her know how much I missed her and how glad I am to be home! Then kiss her and follow the next step of the customer service cycle.
After the greeting, a Customer Service Representative should immediately offer assistance. This willingness to help should be present throughout the call.
When I get home, my wife is usually in the throws of making dinner, or cleaning the house, and chasing after the kids to keep them out of trouble (Pax always goes toward the dog’s food bowl when in the kitchen, Ella likes to follow her brother around and occasionally push him over…) After hanging my coat up, and perhaps changing my clothes I shouldn’t go lay on the couch. Instead I should ask, “What can I do to help?” or “What do you need?” She may have one set of expectations of what I do when I get home, but I should always be striving to surpass them.
There is a difference between hearing and listening, for sure. But there is also a difference between listening, and active listening. When customers call with a question or an issue, standard customer service mandates that an answer must be given, or that the problem should be resolved. But if the CSR is not attentive to the customer’s feelings, the relationship suffers, the caller feels as if the CSR is uncaring and unsympathetic, and trust is lost.
I can pay attention to the facts that my wife is telling me and respond in kind. Or I can be attentive to the emotions behind her words. Being able to detect her feelings not just from what she says, but from how she says it, and from what she doesn’t say, that’s active listening. This means being free from distractions (as much as I can with a baby and a toddler loose in the house) acknowledging what she says, and paraphrasing to ensure I understand. Part of listening also involves asking questions. Questions not only get the conversation going but they show her that I’m interested in what she is saying, instead of just replying with, “Mmm-hmmm.”
Thank You For Calling
OK, so I skipped a few steps in the customer service cycle, but there comes this awkward moment at the end of a phone call where the Customer Service Representative is kind of hanging around, waiting for the caller to say “Thank you for helping me” when in reality the CSR should always thank the customer for calling. After all, if it wasn’t for customers calling, you wouldn’t have a job! And in my line of work, our customers are the military retirees and their families who have given so much of their lives in service to our county, we should always end the call with a sincere, “Thank you!”
As a husband I could take for granted all that my wife does. And sometimes I’m guilty of hanging around and waiting for my praise. I try to always express my appreciation for all that she does as a wife and stay at home mom. Yesterday, as we were sitting down to eat dinner, I said, “Thank you for dinner!” Although it may have come across like I was surprised that she made dinner (which isn’t true, she makes dinner every night) it was just my sincere gratitude coming through.
The list could go on, but I’ll stop there for now. Like I said, this is just how what I have been teaching, day in and day out for the past two weeks has made me think about how I can do better as a husband. I always want to improve the way we communicate (which means improving the way I listen, mostly.) I’m just thankful there isn’t an option at the end of our conversations for her to fill out a satisfaction survey…!
What have you tried to communicate better in marriage?