Can You Teach Friendly? Customer Service & Reputation Management, especially during the Christmas Crunch

dog Can You Teach Friendly? Customer Service & Reputation Management, especially during the Christmas Crunch

What a Visit to Puerto Rico Taught Me

A Story of Resilience

Let me start with a story of resilience. I was in Puerto Rico recently and conducted a presentation (more like a “Think Tank”, using my “I Can Fix That” concepts). Before I arrived, I was not sure what attitudes to expect of these groups attending a conference dedicated to bringing more tourism back to the Island and rebuilding to previous levels. Puerto Rico is an incredible place! From the vibrancy of San Juan, to the stunning views from the beaches and luxurious hotels, golf courses, even a rain forest (with no mosquitoes), vibrant music, tasty food and ohhhhh-so-friendly people. The people and businesses of P.R. are struggling with some very big challenges, including the Zika virus like many areas in the region, along with economic woes. After my presentation, during the workshop portion, the room filled with serious conversations on the effects and the science of this virus, the economic issues it has created, and the serious and tragic side effects it causes to unborn children. The attendees got to work and filled up over five flip chart pages of what they could do right now “on the ground” at their hotels, resorts and golf courses to help fix some of these significant challenges. The people in the room provided each other a path forward, while the world waits for a vaccine or other clinical or scientific methods to deal with putting a viral crisis under control. I was impressed with how they brought these ideas together.

What Does Friendly Look Like?

Let’s rewind a little….I arrived at the airport in the wee hours of the night (this, after three consecutive flights in the same day, including a weather delay), and I was looking forward to getting to my hotel. I had no checked luggage so I thought this was going to be easy. Unfortunately, my pre-ordered ground transportation was not there: there was nobody in the luggage area; no sign with my name on it; no car waiting curbside or even a bus in sight. Needless to say, I was bleary-eyed and cranky. I was wrinkled, needed to brush my teeth from too much coffee, and needed sleep NOW. Seeing virtually nobody in the airport, my sense of bewilderment increased. I found two security guards at each end of the arrivals hall about 1,000 feet away from each other. They were not TSA or security screeners, but the ones who are dedicated to luggage areas and stand behind a small kiosk. I was expecting a language barrier and a lackluster reception where they would just point. However, they both jumped to my aid, coordinating efforts by calling my hotel and arranging a taxi – doing anything to get me there (which was still another 45-minute drive). Their only concern was to “fix” my plight. Where I had expected, “Sorry, we can’t help”, I got friendly concern and a show of competency. A demonstration of the “3 C’s” I speak about.

After their calls to the hotel, a shuttle showed up for me (not the company I had previously arranged). At that time of night, I was expecting the language barrier again, however my driver was super friendly, empathetic, and even apologized, even though she was not responsible for my original ride and was with a completely different company. Everyone who got involved simply did not want me stranded. Imagine: people caring so much that they took on the responsibility to find a solution even though they were not responsible for causing the problem? I thought “Can you teach this stuff?”

The driver did have to drop off other guests at another hotel first, but “Hey, no problem. I didn’t have to wait and it felt hardly out of the way because of the great conversation”. For the duration of my trip in Puerto Rico, things continued to be great: there was a noticeable difference of “friendly” at every touch-point. Not only at the airport but throughout the city, the people I met, the concierge, the hotel and restaurant staff, and everyone in between. I mean, it was not a “put-on” friendly but something more genuine….not a “because I have to … because I’m in the tourism industry”, but a warm, honest-to-goodness genuine warmth from everyone I met.

I’ve traveled most of the globe as a flight crew member, business owner, speaker and author. I’m often really picky, and so often one location blends into another. So I really notice when things are really good and have often asked myself – Can You Teach Friendly?

How to create a culture of “friendly”

Here are my top 3 things to know, if you want to create a culture of friendly:

  1. Leaders begin with messaging and actions that exemplify a “We Can Fix That” attitude”. They work towards solving problems not away from them or feeling defeated. I recently noticed the Chicago Cubs’ coach Joe Madden speak on how he discounted “the curse” and only worked on what “they could do” in the 7th game tied in the 10th inning of the World Series (where there had not been a win for 108 years). This mindset comes from within, a belief from each person, an understanding that they can make a difference and contribution, even when things don’t go as planned. Leaders look at these “oops” as opportunities to figure it out to help the team solve problems.
  2. Resilience actually creates more resilience. Teams don’t shy away from challenges or a crisis. Once teams realize that when they get through one crisis, the next one can come along pretty quickly. If there is a pattern of “we got through that one, we can get through this one, let’s figure it out” – they move more quickly to resolve (and avoid resistance). When actions are taken to solve problems (contribute), people see results, and this continues a cycle of more results. Teams start self-managing each other and correct each other. You will hear them actually encouraging each other to find solutions instead of complaining.
  3. Teams know how to handle conflicts, to get to resolve. They understand that to debate a position, they must learn how to argue with intelligence (facts, knowledge on the topic), and bring it forward with respect. They must move to interest-based issues not attacks. There is a module on conflict resolution and how to handle visibly upset people with grace, in my Online learning modules. See an excerpt here. Scroll down to FREE PREVIEW “The Cabin Story”

We know things will not always go as planned, and this is where you really need people to want to put up their hand and say “I Can Fix That”. As the season of travel, shopping, and shipping is upon us, many realize that orders can be delayed, products will break, servers will go down, hiring enough people can be tough, and you can’t automate everything. Everyone who focuses on creativity and thoughtfulness of both those working on the inside and those face-to-face with the customer will prevail. By creating a culture of care at all touch-points, I think you can teach “friendly”. Be nice everyone; ’tis the Season.

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