1) What is the (most succinct and helpful) question (?)?
2) What is the (most appropriate and beneficial) answer (!)?
This is one of the foundations of a leader’s fundamental ability to bring (greater) success to any situation. Any physician, life coach, therapist, personal trainer (you pick the change agent) SHOULD begin this process immediately after greeting a patient or client. After all, the service rendered is FOR the client NOT the service provider. Sadly, however, asking the RIGHT question is not as easy as it seems. Let’s go a little deeper.
After 21+ years in the service industry, I have not only learned about customer service from highly-accomplished and well-respected mentors but spent a lot of energy teaching former employees (and now students) about implementing the practice of, “The customer is always right!” This is especially true when people are paying money for these services.
As much as I try not to judge other professionals for their service, I simply can’t help myself when it’s something expensive. For example, I researched a local ENT specialist to help diagnose a “hearing” problem I’ve had for over a decade. If you’ve ever been on a plane (think equalizing the pressure in your middle ear) or quickly ascending elevator, you know the feeling when your ears start to feel “plugged up”. Usually you squeeze your nose and the sensation quickly goes away. Imagine living with that for years and welcome to my life. The problem definitely wasn’t hearing although it affected the clarity of my hearing.
After researching some of “the best doctors in Dallas” I found this doctor who seemed highly distinguished. I filled out the online paperwork (that neither he nor his staff ever read) and was ready to roll. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was that…I wasn’t noticed. After standing at the receptionist desk for a few minutes, the receptionist mono-tonally ordered me to fill out paperwork. Soon after filling out my paperwork and enjoying the uninviting waiting room, the doctor stepped in and mispronounced my easy last name. That was a first.
Next he did what he was supposed to do and asked me what the problem seemed to be. That would have been great had he actually HEARD and INTERPRETED what I succinctly described as NOT a hearing problem. After many hearing tests, he proceeded to diagnose me with…”you don’t have a hearing problem.”
Yes, it was at that moment that I thought to myself, “No, but YOU certainly do!”
After a $200 bill that pained me to pay, I was a bit miffed and confused. The obvious question from a non-physician such as myself would have been, “Doc, is it possible to fix a middle ear pressure issue where my hearing is impaired even though i can still discern all sounds?” He didn’t seem to think that question was the right one so I came away feeling like maybe I’m confused about the ailment I have been dealing with for over 12 years now. Internet research could only take me as far as my inner ear being ok but what I really needed to know was how to fix the constant sensation of my ear feeling plugged. I must have told this doctor at least 4 times that my hearing was not the issue but either he didn’t agree with me or he didn’t care that I seemed dissatisfied with the outcome of our interaction together. The funny thing is, I asked a current client of mine who is also a physician and knows this doctor. When I told him and another physician in my gym about the experience they both laughed and said, “You should have asked me about him, first!” So much for researching a “good” doctor.
I know everyone has a bad day but sometimes we truly have to take an honest self-inventory. Are we REALLY providing a good service to our customers…you know, the kind that actually addresses the concern the customer had in the first place?
I emphasize this concept in my personal training school daily. The most important thing that EVERY personal trainer should begin developing with a new client is TRUST! This implies that we are always serving our clients rather than our clients serving us (by paying our bills or stroking our ego). There are many companies that place an amazing amount of energy into making sure their customers feel heard and satisfied even when the outcome doesn’t always benefit the customer. Take a vacation to Jamaica and you will often see an entire culture of people willing to serve and have a great attitude about it.
I’ll close this thought with a question. When you survey your personal or professional life, do you find yourself not really listening to what someone is communication to you? Hearing is one thing. Understanding what someone else says is completely different. Many of the couples that I’ve worked with to find strategies to improve their marriage or dating life have often cited communication as being a core struggle at times. The struggle is almost always rooted in the disconnect between what’s being spoken and what’s being understood. I’ve always found it a good practice to repeat what someone has said and ask them if what you repeated was correct before you move on to a response.