Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Author:  Doug McCann
Forthcoming Book:  "So You're A Nice Guy and Want To Be In Business"

I shall never forget a story told to us in an Introduction to Psychology course I studied in the mid 1980's.  A customer had walked into a doughnut shop wanting to buy a coffee and doughnut.  He was in a fairly good mood, ready to face his day with encouragement and determination.  He just needed 'that' coffee, and oh, a doughnut - make that two doughnuts!  His particular server on the other hand was not having such a great day.  Presenting as fowl and snarky she was in a 'get outta' my face' mood.  She may well have scared off Hulk Hogan if he was near by!  It was no leap of faith for the customer to surmise from the tone in her voice and the look in her eyes that he was on her last nerve!  Customer service?  Satisfaction?  Diplomacy?  Not here - not now!

Doug McCann - Author - Blog - Customer ServiceSo the customer realized the ball was in his court, heck, it was likely catapulted there, and he could take the opportunity and re-write the scene.  He could return the anger and acrimony and allow himself to become upset, bothered and embattled leaving the shop in a bad mood and remaining that way for a time, and that would be 'reactive' behaviour in which no one wins.  We've all read quotes encouraging us to be in control of our attitudes, generally speaking.  So, rather than a 'reaction', how about seizing an opportunity to 'act'?

Acting to improve the situation could include compassion or empathy on the customer's part.  A simple statement like, "You must be having a bad day!" goes a long way in expressing concern and recognition for the server's manner.  After all, one never knows the trials and battles anyone could be facing at any time.  However it is easy to spot kindness and compassion, certainly empathy.  Suddenly, the server has someone on her side.  Often that's enough to calm a fellow human being and both the customer and server end up in a conversation, and the customer walks out, still in a happy mood.

The customer was more or less blindsided, not expecting to run into such an unpleasantry and chose to 'act' rather than 'react'.  Reacting is a knee-jerk response, unplanned, foolhardy, often resulting in regret and disharmony.  Planning and anticipation on the other hand are responsible and are described as being 'proactive'.  It's preparedness and sets in queue a set of contingencies on which to resort.

As an example, let's consider someone who is in a service oriented business, perhaps a painter and decorator.  To begin work on a client's home following only a verbal agreement on price and what needs to be done is dangerous and risky.  One party may have a completely different understanding on what work is to be rendered.  If the contractor proceeds with painting the house pink and planting red flowering shrubs along the front only to have the home owner return and see with great dissatisfaction expecting that the paint colour was suppose to be crimson and the flowers were supposed to have been planted in gardens along the driveway.  Who's right and who's wrong and who can say one way or the other if only a verbal agreement was struck between the contractor and the home owner.  Running a business in a proactive manner means be prepared with written contracts and purchase orders avoiding anticipated communication breakdown, skewed perceptions, unfounded and false expectations - basically avoiding human error.

Great people skills, on going developing of interpersonal and communication skills are borne out of proactive exercises and practices.  Whether it's championing for safety on a construction site, or in the office, developing customer and employee codes of conduct, providing employee training, ensuring your company emphasizes awareness of terms and conditions of sales, returns, guarantees and so on, proactive practices will mitigate or avoid undesirable situations including injury, customer dissatisfaction, arguments.  It avoids knee-jerk response which can lead to confusion, disorganization, futility and even panic.

A nice guy in business has the opportunity to protect the value of his character and business and present diplomacy in handling something that has gone wrong.  A nice guy can avoid being blindsided and left to doubt him/herself.

I welcome your feedback!