Making Memorable Connections through Conversations

convo.jpgConversations are one of the wonderful ties we have with other human beings. Along with our actions, our conversations are what connect us with those around us. Conversations are an interesting dynamic, much like snowflakes, no two conversations are exactly the same. They can be serious, funny, informational, playful or impactful; and sometimes they can be many things woven into one diverse interaction. In many instances, we may not be able to remember what was specifically said, but we can remember the feelings we were left with. Or on the other side of the spectrum, I think it is safe to say most of us have walked away from a conversation remembering every word, but somehow completely missing the point.

In the customer service world, where the focus has been on high customer satisfaction scores and positive customer reviews, we often are left with the feeling that the person responsible for delivering the customer service experience is caught in a never-ending rinse and repeat cycle of the same questions and the same answers. We almost expect to be walked through a series of basic questions to get to the end result; leaving the experience completely forgettable or even frustrating. Have we lost the value of a good conversation by trying to achieve these high scores and good reviews by mandated service interactions? Are we becoming too robotic while trying to provide legendary service?

Let me share a very recent example. I was picking up a rental car at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I have rented from this company hundreds of times, so I know the drill; the first question will be to hand over my driver’s license and credit card. So when it was my turn to approach the counter, I did so with both items in hand. I provided my last name, placed the items on the counter and was ‘greeted’ with the statement, “Driver’s license and credit card”. I calmly slid the items further across the counter and the agent just smiled. She asked if I needed a GPS and I told her, “No, but I would like a map.” Several minutes passed in silence and then she asked, “Do you need a GPS?”…again, I smiled and restated, “No GPS is needed, but that I would like a map”. More silence passed as she furiously entered data in to her computer, and finally, eye contact! She opened her mouth to speak, and asked me…wait for it…“Do you need a GPS?” At this point I had to laugh. She looked at me oddly, and I told her, “That is the 3rd time that you have asked me that same question, and I have told you ‘No’ each time, and that all I need is a map.” She then said to me, “We are so scripted in what we have to say, that sometimes I forget what I have done.” She then handed me the keys and rental agreement, pointed me in the direction of the parking lot, and thanked me for my business. As I got ready to leave, I realized that, you guessed it…she did not provide me with a map!

Customer service standards are an important tool that companies use to ensure a specific quality or level of service in every customer interaction. These standards definitely add value when introduced in collaboration with how to personalize each customer situation. Conversations connect the business transaction to the relationship companies have with the customer. Conversations represent the individual employees, the company’s brand, and the value provided to the customer. In order to not sound robotic and still make sure customer service standards are achieved, representatives must be able to focus on the customer’s world, talk about ways of meeting the customer’s objectives, and most essentially they have to create a personalized two-way dialogue with the customer.

William Hazlitt said, “The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.” In order to create a personalized two-way dialogue with the customer, representatives have to ask good questions and listen to their customers. Most customer service standards require representatives to ask essential questions such as customer name, reason for the call or visit, and what type of assistance they need. How the representative asks these questions is what generates a memorable experience. Customer Service representatives have to ask mandated questions while wrapped in the art of observing each individual customer and streamlining their communication qualities and word choices to each customer situation. This is not an easy task.

Two colleagues recently shared a story with me. They were working at the front desk of their hotel and a couple they had checked in earlier that day walked by them on their way out. The couple was dressed very nicely; suit and tie, dress and heels. One of the representatives greeted the guests and said, “You look so nice. You must be celebrating a special occasion. Are you headed to a wedding?” To which one of the guests replied, “No, we are on our way to a funeral.” The Front Office rep was so embarrassed—he immediately remembered the guests from check-in and that they were there for a funeral, but he had no idea how to recover from this. Rather than providing accountability or empathy to the guests, he allowed them to walk out of the door. As my colleagues shared this story with me, I couldn’t help but think: What is the point of asking your guests good questions if you aren’t going to use the information to your advantage?

One way to ensure you make a basic informational question into a memorable experience is by using personal prompts and cues. Prompts and cues can help representatives create a memorable experience by asking mandated questions as a conversation starter with the intent to generate a personalized two way dialogue. One of the best is called Q-A-C. Lovingly referred to as “Quacks”, these prompts allow a representative to ask standardized questions while still personalizing the conversation. Q-A-C stands for: Question – Answer – Comment.

For example:

Question: What will be bringing you to our area?
Answer: We are celebrating our anniversary.
Comment: Congratulations! We are honored that you are choosing to spend your special day with us!


Question: What will be bringing you to our area?
Answer: We are celebrating our anniversary.
Comment: OK, so did you want a room with 1 or 2 beds?

Quacks are just one tool customer service representative can use to meet customer service standards while making the interaction a memorable conversation for the customer. By implementing small tweaks to how customer services standards are delivered, such as Quacks, using conversational words choices, implementing transitions, and the ever important listening and matching tone of voice, customer service can go from the robotic rinse and repeat, to truly engaging and legendary.

Conversations demonstrate our connections with our customers. We can eliminate the ‘glitches’ such as not knowing which question we have already asked, sounding robotic, or forgetting who we have spoken to and why we spoke to them. In our electronic, standardized world, let’s shake it up with just a little engagement. Let’s be rebellious, let’s use our customer service standards to start a conversation, enhance our connections with our customers, and build loyalty through personalization.

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