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Playbook

Sample Script for Verbal Warning: Substandard Customer Satisfaction

January 30, 2013

Some employees need help understanding what makes for great customer service. Here is a sample script of a verbal warning for coaching an employee who has giving poor customer service adapted from 101 Tough Conversations by Paul Falcone.

 Customer service excellence takes work: After all, employees can only get so far on charm. And if you simply translate customer service into “solving others’ problems with a cheery disposition,” you’ll communicate a message that when others are in need, you can provide them with a solution. Sometimes that solution is found in providing accurate information, sometimes it’s found in fixing something that’s broken, and at other times it’s simply a matter of lending a caring ear to someone who needs to vent. Whatever the case, excellence in customer service distinguishes world-class from mediocre delivery, and that level of delivery easily translates into your company’s profit margins.

When challenged by someone who demonstrates apathy or a lack of commitment toward others’ needs in the customer service process, seize the opportunity to educate the individual on the importance of this one trait or skill that will influence her career more than just about anything. After all, it’s all about communication in the world of business, and loyal customers—internal or external—are the greatest source of job security and career advancement available.

Creating a culture of service and hospitality is no easy task, and the stakes are high in a world where fierce competition is the norm. Companies typically compete on product, price, and service. And although product and price may vary greatly, service must always remain paramount to maintain a competitive advantage. When faced with an individual who fails to see eye to eye with you regarding this crucial workplace factor, don’t be shy about addressing her shortcomings in terms of missed opportunities as well as your concrete expectations.

The Solution: Verbal Warning

Assuming that your head of the hotel concierge desk has suddenly lost interest in exceeding the guests’ expectations, your sit-down meeting might sound something like this:

 

Anne, we need to talk. I called this private meeting with you because I’m suddenly sensing a difference in your approach to working with our guests. When you started with us last year, you would leap tall buildings in a single bound to help anyone and everyone who needed something. I was so impressed not only with the energy you displayed but with your selfless attitude. Your energy and smile were almost catching, and I teased you on more than one occasion about your smile being the greatest asset and how it increased your “face value.”

Now I’m sensing a totally different Anne: someone whose energy and willingness to help are palpably lower, someone who’s not smiling or generating an energy that’s catching, and a person who, quite frankly, appears disengaged from her work and mildly bothered by the guests.

That’s my initial impression, anyway. Now tell me your side of things. [It’s true that I’ve got a lot on my mind lately, and I’m afraid that my home life is bleeding over into my work life. I’m sorry about that, Paul, and I never intended that to happen.]

Okay, fair enough: I understand that such things happen sometimes. I guess my question to you is, are you willing and able to turn that trend around? [Yes.]

So when faced with that type of perception problem, Anne, how would you recommend turning things around? [I’ll be more mindful of our guests and do my best to reenergize myself so I can return to the old Anne.]

Thank you. Those are very good answers. Let’s talk about specifics. I want you to keep a few things in mind about customer service. And I’m not just talking about our hotel or this particular job: I’m talking about your entire career. Nothing is more important—nothing—than the perception you create for guests, coworkers, and, most important, your supervisors. Anyone willing to go above and beyond excels in their career because, well, people just like being around them. So if you ever sense that you’re in a slump for any reason, think objectively from a career development standpoint about how you could improve and “plug back in” to that zone that you know so well.

Next, speaking of career development, remember that your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. It’s easy dealing with nice and happy people: The challenge in your job and mine is “getting inside their heads” and figuring out how to diffuse a problem. That’s the most creative part of your job, and it, more than anything, will help you stand out as a rarity among your peers.

Finally, remember that this job—and a career in management in any company—should be about selfless leadership. As you grow and develop in your career, understand that it’s not about power: Power is one-sided where you get to do whatever you like just because of who you are. Instead, it’s about strength—helping others get what they want through you. And that strength that you could provide others may be hotel guests, subordinates, or family members. Your goal is to help them be the best that they can be. That’s what it means to lead a life well lived. That’s the secret to it all. Apply it to everything and everyone you come across and you’ll find that everything you do will be easier and more enjoyable.

Okay, I didn’t mean to get too lofty there, but give it some thought. I have a lot of faith in you and see so much potential. Just don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, whether that’s your career, the company’s profitability and well-being, or your overall sense of self. You have so much to give—and so much to gain from your giving. I’m glad we had this talk. Come see me any time you feel like you need a reminder, okay? [Okay, thanks Paul.]

Sometimes these minor challenges give us opportunities to bond with those we work with. Applied selectively, such discussions help you connect to your subordinates at a much deeper level, and the bond of trust and respect that forms at moments like this—when you lift the employee up when she’s feeling bad about herself or about her life—is a gift that may never be forgotten.

See more posts on performance management by Paul Falcone. For more of Paul Falcone, check out his performance management books.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher from 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees  by Paul Falcone published by AMACOM, division of American Management Association, New York, NY.  All rights reserved.  www.amacombooks.org

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About The Author

Paul Falcone is a human resources executive in Los Angeles and has held senior-level positions with Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and Time Warner. He is the author of a number of AMACOM and SHRM bestselling books, four of which made SHRM's prestigious "Great 8" list: 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire, 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems, 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees, and 2,600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews. His latest AMACOM book, 75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop, and Keep Great Employees, was released in 2016. Follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulFalconeHR and his website and blog at www.PaulFalconeHR.com.

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