I detest queues. In fact, I dislike the concept that anyone should be asked to stand in line, ever, anywhere, for anything.
It isn’t the time spent standing, staring into space and shifting from one tired foot to another while contemplating the things that I’d rather be doing that bothers me. I’m not perturbed by the woman who feigns a coma while her three active children build a fort with my luggage, or even by the accommodating soul ahead of me who suddenly spots 27 long-lost friends and invites them to cut it, while asking sweetly with a backward glance: “Oh, you don’t mind, do you?”
No, they aren’t the problem.
Lining up is degrading. Compelling people to queue is a power trip - it’s the People in Charge dictating our conduct so that we can get something we need, whether it’s a chance to board an aircraft, to check in to a hotel, or to claim a free cup of soup and a chunk of bread. Lines are for cattle headed complacently to slaughter, not for people.
The driver’s license bureau sort of gets it: They issue you a number and provide a chair. The professional who schedules appointments so there are no queues really gets it – especially those who take your coat and provide a cup of tea and free wi-fi in the event you’re be asked to wait at all.
Turn the tables. Ask who is serving whom?
The best customer service solutions arise when we think like a customer, and see our world through their eyes. Customers aren’t concerned with what your company policy requires, or what a manager thinks is feasible. They don’t care a whit about your problems. They want service, and anything that interferes with or delays the delivery of that service is unacceptable. Period.
Here are five time-tested things that you can do today to get into your customer’s head and improve your service profile:
- Sit, watch and learn. Identify the service bottlenecks in your business, then pull up a chair and observe them for an hour or so. Be ready to take notes. When you see the world from your customer’s point of view, it’s remarkable how often you’ll hear yourself thinking, “That’s not good. We should…”
- Ask questions like a three year-old. “Why?” can be an infuriating question, but can also provide illuminating answers. Ask your staff, ask your customers and ask anyone else who wanders into view. Questions stimulate thought. Orders don’t.
- Be super-critical. Don’t wait to read the scathing TripAdvisor reviews. Experience your business from the point of view of customers who are firmly focused on one thing: Getting what they want.
- Do something. Don’t rationalize the shortcomings you find, experiment with possible solutions. Scientists have discovered that there are 2,429 reasons why any given task can’t be done, and only three ways that it can. Find one of those ways, and implement it.
- Be an enforcer. Employees often take new procedures with a grain of salt. As soon as ‘the boss’ is thinking of other things, your people may fall back into the old, comfortable way of working. Check back often. When needed, correct. When it’s going well, praise lavishly.
Scott H. Lewis is managing director for the CIS region of Signature Europe. A former journalist and public relations counselor, he has provided crisis, public speaking and presentation training to senior executives across Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. He is the author of “60 Seconds to ‘Wow!’,” a book on presentation skills. An American, he has lived in Kyiv, Ukraine for more than a decade.