By Nancy Friedman, Keynote Speaker; Customer Service and Communication Expert; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training
In these days, folks are busy, stressed out and short of time. It can be easy to forget to thank folks. It shouldn’t be. However, sadly, it is.
We can usually remember to thank our customers because “we’re supposed to.” We probably don’t have any trouble thanking our family members. However, there is a group of folks that are often left out of the “thank you” pile.
And that would be our co-workers. The folks we spend most of the day with side-by-side. I’m dedicating this column to our inside customers. The folks that are thought of as our ‘home away from home’ family. Sure, we argue and disagree with co-workers just like our family. And that’s OK, because most of us have a family environment in our office. We understand that. It’s our office family. The word WACTEO comes from the sentence:
We Are Customers to Each Other.
If every office, large and small, followed some of these guidelines, I’m thinking it would be a better place to work.
- Understand Your Role – Each employee should know the mission of their organization and the role they play. Those of us who are in a small department of a large company can often miss the big picture. If you don’t know the mission of your company, ask for it. Keep it at your desk. It will help you with the big picture. You may start to understand the ‘why’ of the things you’re asked to do sometimes and ‘why’ internal customer appreciation and service is everyone’s responsibility from president to maintenance. If management isn’t doing their part, often the entire customer service program will go out the window. We don’t want double standards. Remember it starts at the top!
- Respect Employee Differences – Cub fan? Cardinal fan? Republican? Democrat? Rock music, classical, whatever. Just because we don’t agree with someone doesn’t make us right. Differences are crucial for an organization. Differences are key to understanding people. If everyone thought the same way, most of us wouldn’t be needed. It’s not healthy to argue just because a co-worker isn’t doing it the way you would or thinking the way you do. Learn to respect the differences. That’s why we have chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
- Recognize the Personal Space of Others – Simply put, this boils down to the golden rule. Those who can work with a radio playing music may disturb others around them who aren’t able to concentrate. Loud voices around someone who’s on the phone with an external customer can be annoying also. If you’re working in a cubical or sharing an office or area, we need to recognize there are others around you. Be sensitive to their wishes, as you would hope they would be to yours.
- Work to Resolve Conflicts – Who hasn’t had unkind words with another employee? Or perhaps you and a co-worker strongly disagree on a project or idea. Not trying to make it work can only lead to more stress and frustration. Learn to work it out (notice I didn’t say ‘try’ and work it out) even if you need to call in a professional in the area. Normally someone from HR or another trusted employee can usually be of help on conflict resolutions.
- Show Appreciation – We saved this for last, because being appreciated, showing you care with a genuine ‘thank you,’ is critical to WACTEO. When was the last time you said a genuine ‘thank you’ or ‘great job’ to a fellow co-worker? It can be a handwritten note, or a post-it note, even an email, a phone call or voice mail. Or simply stopping by an office and letting someone know they did a good job. This makes a huge difference in our internal relationships. There are surveys upon surveys that show how much a genuine pat on the back of appreciation is thought of as a way of special compensation.
- Use WACTEO in all forms of communication – email, voice mail, snail mail, phone, fax and face-to-face; any way you communicate internally with a co-worker. Doubt any of you need a reason to support only one level of service, external or internal customers, but if anyone argues with you on this topic here’s some ammunition:
* Make your workplace a more respectful place. If there’s friction and unhappiness in any workplace, it’s easy to have those negative feelings carried over into conversations with external customers, clients and home.
* It’s easier to operate using only one set of service skills – your highest level, rather than mentally switching gears between how you communicate with external vs. internal customers. Why have two levels of service? Why discriminate?
* Excellent customer service is contagious. When team members elevate the care they show towards each other, it easily spreads throughout the organization. Unfortunately, the same thing can happen when you mistreat a co-worker. Examples of treating internal customers with the same respectful habits as our external customers include:
a. Emails that include respectful phrases such as please, I appreciate your help, thank you, have a great day and other phrases that warm the message.
b. Using the same greeting and closing signatures we would with external customers.
c. Authoring clear and concise email messages which are respectful of the reader’s time.
What other ways can you add to make it a more WACTEO day at your office?
Someone once told me one of their WACTEO moments in their office is: “If you take the last drop of coffee – make another pot.” That works.
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