Helping Your Life Work
September 1, 2006
Volume 2, Issue 9

At Your Service

We all have our stories of receiving bad service. Voice or e-mail messages are ignored. Computerized drones give us confusing instructions on how to reach every category of service save the one we need. Reaching a live person does not mean our problem is solved. It usually means being transferred at least four times to four new people to whom our story must be repeated four more times. Promised service is delivered late or not at all. Prices quoted end up being much more in the end. Overcrowded doctors’ waiting rooms become breeding grounds for infection as we sit there for hours on end. Worse, months or years go by waiting for much needed medical attention. When we complain about poor service, we are given excuses or told that it is someone else’s fault if not our own.

My family moved into an older house nearly two years ago. With renovations, upgrades, and re-renovations after the August 19th flood of last year, we have communicated with our fair share of service people. Some have been wonderful, reliable, on time, clean and most importantly honest, not just about pricing, but about their promises in general. Others could fill the proverbial textbook of what to do to alienate customers.

Being in the professional service industry, I try to review my own practices on a regular basis to ensure that I am providing what I hope is received as excellent service. In thinking about what constitutes good service for this article, I began to realize that most of the attributes are also applicable to many of life situations. So if we consider “service” in the broader sense of the word, the following can be applied not only to providing good service to customers and clients, but also to family, friends and ourselves.

  1. Only make promises that you know that you can keep. In an effort to placate or please someone, we often say things we think the other wants to hear and end up disappointing him or her when we don’t deliver on our promise. Think first about what you are willing and able to commit to. If you promise to do something, don’t back down at the last minute; don’t find excuses for not getting it done; don’t ask somebody else to do it. Just do it.
  2. If you are unable to perform a task because of lack of knowledge, expertise or experience, let people know. We can’t be expert in everything. And when possible, go the extra mile and suggest someone who might be able to help.
  3. Listen to what people say. In business, I have often come across people who have a set agenda of what they want to accomplish (i.e. sell a product, influence your decision, etc.), but have difficulty listening to your particular concern. The same can be applied to our personal relationships. Instead of thinking about what you want to say next to get your point across, take a moment to listen to what the other person is communicating. Check out whether you have understood their intent. And respond to that, not some predetermined idea that you started with.
  4. Face complaints head-on. If someone has a problem with your service or with you personally, listen to the concern. Instead of the usual responses we often resort to, such as becoming defensive, coming up with excuses or blaming someone else, consider the merit of what they are saying. Consider what you can learn from the feedback. Thank them for having the courage to be honest with you. Do your best to own your behaviour, take responsibility for your action and then try to rectify the situation.

What constitutes excellent service for you? Are you providing excellent service to those around you and to yourself? Please let me know. I love to hear from you.

P.S. To all those who are returning to school or work next week, I wish you a happy and successful year.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
416 498-1352
“Helping Your Life Work”

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