Do you take responsibility for your communication? Do you really think about what you want to communicate before stating a single word? Or do you just state the first thing that comes to mind?
Walking the talk is so important in customer service. Do we not owe it to ourselves and to each other to own the words that we communicate to potential customers, colleagues, and loved ones?
I recently gave a speech on “owning the conversation.” I asked members in my audience how many were in customer service roles. Only a handful of people raised their hands. I asked again with more intent. It was then when they became aware that we are all in a customer service role at one point or another during our time with interacting with others.
Customer service is all around us, whether it is in professional or in our personal lives. We as human beings serve one another in some type of capacity and it’s clear that the quality of customer service has slowly decreased over the years. It is not how to take care of the customer, it is about how much money business (or we) can make in the shortest time.
Am I a bit critical, because of my many years in customer service? Look around where you see customer service. Are they really serving? Today’s world is fast-paced, electronic filled and instant gratification. Where does that leave communication skills? I challenge you to visit a local retail store and ask a salesperson or stock-person a question about a product. Most likely, you will receive a response, “Um, I don’t know or I’m sorry,” “I’m not the one to ask,” “That’s a good question” or the individual shrugs his her shoulders, you get the feeling that they are only there to pass by the time or for the paycheck.
I was working with a student recently on speaking to customers. I was “the customer” and I felt that this student was saying anything that came to her mind or state something that would please me as a customer. Why, because her words were empty. She talked fast and in short sentences. There wasn’t any intent or focus in her message to me. Was I being too critical? In my conversation with the student, I asked her to “own the conversation” by talking with conviction, intent and meaning.
Talking with people is a huge task not only in business but also in our personal lives. Take the personal responsibility for what we state to another individual. Communication skills are crucial in any type of environment whether it is business or personal. I can admit, there are times when I have not “owned the conversation” and have regretted it. Those are the teaching/learning moments that I came to terms and decided that I was not going to do that again.
It seems that in today’s world, it revolves around who is to blame for the mess that we are in. It is someone else’s fault. This is where the attack word “you” comes into play. Once defensiveness comes into the conversation, the words just fly out of our mouths without realizing what we had said until after we had said it. By then, it is usually too late to salvage anything and it damages the relationship. By taking responsibility or “owning” the words that we communicate, we would make our relationships better. It would be less of the “you” attack words. It would be the less “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” or I’m sorry” phrases.
As individuals, if we own the conversations, the “you” attack word would diminish. Taking ownership of the words spoken, brings about a richness of not only the words but also in the relationships that we are in on a daily basis. It would eliminate the meaningless words (or relationships) into better, more cohesive conversations.
How to Own the Customer Service Conversation
Owning the conversation is a simple process of “system checks” that can occur before, during or after the conversation. First, we can prepare mentally to make sure that our tone of voice, possible questions or responses, spatial cues and non-verbal gestures are what we want them to be when we do communicate. Second, right there in the moment when we are in a conversation with someone. Pause and think about what you want to state and how to state it. Thirdly, reflection of the conversation we had with someone. Could I have said it differently? Could I convey the same message in a different manner?
This, as you may have guessed, takes time to practice and to build those skills.
Owning the conversation can also incorporate the utilization of the “I” statements when needed. For example, I understand that . The alternative of not stating the “I” statement, is the accusatory “you” statements. This sets off a wide range of tempers and words and we forget on how to communicate effectively. Accusations, tempers, and actions cannot be reversed and can hinder not only the individual but also the group or the organization.
Sometimes, we use the useless words of “I don’t know” as a truthful and owned response because we simply do not know. But how you say it can make a difference. Are you just stating the words, or are you stating those words with conviction? Sometimes, it may be because we may not want to face the real issue.
Challenge yourself to make that change. Challenge yourself to think about the possible conversations, present conversations and past conversations. How to convey the message by completing a systems check.
Why This Is Important
This is not a new concept. It is a concept that has been lost over the past several years. What would happen if we all owned our conversations? We would eliminate the useless and meaningless “I don’t know and I’m sorry” words from our actions and vocabulary.
Owning the conversation is important in any kind of customer service or personal relationship. It is important to you as an individual and as an employee or boss. It builds character, trust, relationships, confidence and knowledge. All of these make up the foundation of our individual selves. We are all unique. We all have our own talents and dreams. By owning the conversation, we can make everything we have in our power much more valuable.
About the Author
Rosemary Evers is a freelance writer living in Minnesota. She has 20 plus years of experience in retail, banking, medical, and education. Rosemary is also an adjunct instructor for Rochester Community & Technical College.