My work with corporate teams often centers on improving customer service. Business leaders want their employees to work together and for there to be harmony in their workplace, but they need their employees to be teammates—good teammates—to their customers to maximize profits.
When employees view customers as their teammates rather than necessary burdens, they convey higher levels of loyalty, empathy, commitment, and appreciation. They become invested in their customers’ problems and are far more likely to go out of their way to help resolve those problems.
I try to share examples of superior customer service anytime I encounter an employee who espouses good teammates standards. I experienced one of these encounters last week while having my wife’s car serviced at a local dealership. The employee’s name was Carlos and his title was “car care specialist.”
The days of people taking their car to a garage and interacting with a mechanic in greasy overhauls are going by the wayside. Today, taking your car to be serviced is more like a trip to the doctor’s office. You schedule an appointment, you wait in a cushy lounge with televisions and refreshments, and you rarely speak to the actual mechanic. You deal instead with an intermediary known as a car care specialist.
Car care specialists are liaisons between the mechanic and the customer, and the best have outstanding bedside manner. Like great doctors, they are skilled at delivering bad news.
I brought my wife’s car the garage to have a routine oil change and tire rotation. She wasn’t having any problems with her car, so I didn’t expect to need any other work done. Carlos approached me in the waiting room and said, “I can tell you’ve been taking good care of your car. We got the oil changed and tires rotated, but I think you also need an alignment.
“Your tires are wearing kind of funny. If we do an alignment, you’ll probably be able to get another thirty to forty thousand miles out of them. But if we don’t, I suspect you’ll be back in here in a couple of months needing new tires and experiencing some bigger problems.”
Nobody wants to receive bad news, especially when they’re not expecting it. Effectively communicating negative information and getting a positive reaction requires skill.
Carlos confronted me the way good teammates confront problems with other team members. He approached me and gave me the “sweet” (I can tell you’ve been taking good care of your car). Then he gave me the “sour” (I think you also need an alignment).
He followed that up by presenting the benefits of what would happen if I acted upon his recommendations (you’ll be able to get another thirty to forty thousand miles out of your tires) and the consequences of not acting upon them (you’ll be back here in a few months needing new tires).
Had Carlos summoned me to him and bluntly told me I need more work done, I would have been skeptical of his motives and questioned the necessity of that work. By approaching me, tactfully presenting the problem, potential benefits, and consequences, he created an atmosphere of trust and improved the likelihood of me accepting what he had to say.
Despite receiving unexpected news that required unexpected repairs and unexpected expenses, I drove away from the dealership in a good mood. Carlos’ pleasant disposition and effective communication were a big reason for this. Carlos isn’t known as a “car care specialist” because of his intimate knowledge of cars; he’s known by that title because of his ability to make the cars’ owners feel special.
Sometimes team members fall out of alignment. They lose focus, act counter to the team’s culture, and need their attitudes adjusted. When this happens, good teammates must step into the role of “team care specialist” and help misaligned team members get re-aligned.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.