Day 28. April 22, 2011
This morning I heard some stressful phone conversations coming from our customer service center in our building. Being a Carnegie graduate I was eager to help—but I didn’t know how to give any of the employees encouragement without coming off condescending or arrogant. I can understand how the job can be stressful and thankless. I wrung my hands and did nothing….
At 3:45 pm the phone rang in my office.
I picked up the phone and said warmly, “good afternoon, XYZ company. This is Susie Q.”
Woman on other end of phone: “Hi Susie Q—how are you today?”
I replied with gusto—“I’m great! How are you?” (Note to the reader: I have NO idea who this person is—she hasn’t identified herself. I’m also anxious to find out if management will send us home early since it’s Good Friday. Despite these personal concerns I decide to do my best by having a cheerful voice on the phone.)
The woman on the phone replied with a heavy sigh, “I’m SO TIRED. I’m hoping they send us home early today.”
At this point—you can hear the sound of crickets. I don’t know how to respond to this—so I stay silent.
Woman on phone: “I’m calling to sell you services in such and such we have the best services in town… are you the owner?”
I replied, “No I’m not the owner and our company is not interested.”
Woman on phone: “Well, if you’re not the owner it’s not your place to tell me the company isn’t interested.”
I responded, “Just a note—it’s probably not a good idea to tell me that you are so tired before you try to sell me something.”
Woman on phone: “Well you were the one that asked how I was doing. I was just answering your question with honesty.”
I replied to the woman, “I hope you have a good weekend—sounds like you need the rest.”
Woman on phone: “Click.”
I set the phone back down after being hung up on and chuckle to myself. I told my associate Henrietta the story. (Henrietta spends a large portion of her day handling our customer service calls. She has immense patience that I don’t have—but like all of us can use encouragement from time to time.)
To dramatize the concept I said with enthusiasm, “Henrietta, can you imagine if you answered the phone and began with a low, unhappy voice like this:
“Hi, this is Henrietta (sigh) what can I do for you (sigh).”
The customer on the line would respond, “hi Henrietta (sigh) I was calling to place an order (sigh) but now I’m too disinterested and tired (sigh).”
Both Henrietta and I got a good laugh at my very exaggerated skit.
I said to Henrietta, “that woman that called me is nothing like you Henrietta. You do a good job.”
The Dale Carnegie principles I used today:
From How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
Principle 20. Dramatize your ideas.
Principle 28. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
From How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Put enthusiasm into your work.
So remember, sometimes the best way to encourage, praise and motivate others is to give an exaggerated example of what not to do. This method gets a good chuckle. It also sends a message that you appreciate their work and you are giving them a fine reputation to live up to. After all, no one would want to be the “dramatized” version of Henrietta that I played.