Lick any good walls lately?
It’s my all-time favorite line from the 1971 movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. I was 4 years old when it first hit theaters. I think I was about 10 or 11 when I saw it for the first time, too young to care about the lack of ethnic diversity in the film, or even how nasty lick-able wallpaper would be. Let’s examine that for a second. It’s wallpaper so it collects dust, which, I suppose the owner and guests would clean off with every tasting. Then again, once it is licked, it is no longer clean, and most likely, one would have to label their sections so that no one else would double-lick, which isn’t really a thing because lick-able wallpaper isn’t a thing. If you tried to wipe it off with a damp sponge or something, would that blur the flavors together or remove the tastes altogether? Most importantly, how could one explain to a novice, the fascination of pressing your face against a wall while licking a piece of paper fruit? So much for deep thoughts.
Anyway, the point is…
It’s one of the most important lines in the movie, but I’m guessing that it is also the least discussed. All’s well that ends well. Charlie wins the chocolate factory. Blah blah blah! But Wonka gives Veruca Salt the secret to the power that is within all of us. We are the music makers! We dream the dreams! We decide how things should go! We are in control!
Admittedly, I wasn’t thinking this way at 10 years old. In fact, I think I was too preoccupied with wondering how Veruca and the others were able to get away with so much. The idea around this came about 20 years later. Better late than never.
^^Click here for the clip from the movie!
So what does this have to do with customer service, you ask? (Ok maybe you didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you!) We, the customer service professionals, are in control. From the moment a customer service transaction begins, we have control. We ask the questions. We log the information. We engage the customer in conversation. We escalate as needed. We confirm that an issue is resolved. Throughout all of these activities, we are the music makers. This is very important to remember, particularly when certain customers become agitated. Oh wait, that never happens, right?
For the select few of us that work with agitated customers, music making means keeping control. It means maintaining the upper hand or more importantly, driving the conversation to match with the results we need. On a typical call, for example, we will need information about the customer, the issue they are experiencing, and what they have tried to resolve the issue. Therefore, when we answer a service call, our first question should not be “How can I help you?” It should be “May I have your name please?”, or “Can you confirm your account number for me?”, or any question that steers the customer toward giving us what we need to begin working their issue. With this, we give ourselves time to prepare whatever we need, whether it is to open a new case in our ticketing system, to finish logging a call from earlier, or even to breathe for a second before having to listen to another concern. By the time they are telling us about their problem, we should know everything there is to know about them as required by our tracking system, or we should at least be prepared to listen.
Crossing the I’s and dotting the T’s…Oh, wait!
Perhaps our organization requires that we follow a script when working with customers. Most scripts are designed to pull information about an issue in order to minimize our time on the phone. If our script does not do that, maybe we should consider suggesting a change. A good call script introduces who we are and then asks for important information needed for us to drive the customer’s issue to resolution. There is quite a lot to say on the subject of call scripts so, we’ll save that for another post. If our company does not require a call script, we can set up our own. Make the music! Do whatever it is we need to do to make our job easier as long as we stay within the guidelines of our company’s requirements for proper call handling. Steer the conversation. Maintain control.
Naturally, if you’re a business owner, you’re used to making the music, dreaming the dream. Being able to do that was probably one of the main reasons why you decided to build your own business. However, be careful! It is way too easy for you to fall victim to conformity in issue resolution. Customers are like children in that they will push every button possible to get you to say yes, even when you know that what is best for them, and more importantly, you, is to say no. People will try to get away with whatever they can unless you draw the line and set reasonable expectations. You don’t always need to be the”yes” person to experience great success. Actually, the reverse is probably more valid.
And with that…
In a perfect world, traffic lights are always green, flowers never die, our customers never have concerns about our product/service, and little orange dudes handle all of our dirty work while we show off our fabulous chocolate factory. Then the alarm clock wakes us up and we hear the distant sound of the garbage truck rolling down the street as we remember that we forgot to put out the trash last night. But even through that and everything else that is a part of daily life, we still have the chance to make the music and dream the dream. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, I’m going to encourage us to do just that. Take control! Keep control! Make the music! Dream the dream! And, for crying out loud, get those customers to give us what we need! We’ll talk again!
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