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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
“Helping Your Life Work”
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