Why sitting in a different seat can help you deliver better customer service

The ability to see things from someone else’s point of view is a key skill in understanding people. However, it is also important with regards to all communication – whether that be in a personal or professional capacity.

Being in a service business, I constantly talk to the team about clients’ perceptions being their reality. Even if they don’t have all the right information at the time – and their belief is factually inaccurate – it’s still their reality, and is therefore important to understand, and respect.

Think how a subtle change in camera angle or filter can make someone look totally different in a selfie. It’s a similar principle here, as the ‘improved’ version looks entirely real – even though in fact – it isn’t.

Often things which might seem obvious to one person – given their standpoint and personal experience – might not always be the case with someone sat in a different position. This can make it difficult to appreciate the other person’s point of view.

Going back to the photograph analogy, a trained and experienced photographer will spot traces of image editing at once, while a casual observer will interpret the shot as genuine. In both cases though, one may struggle to see the image through the eyes of the other.

At Q2Q, we always strive to understand a situation from a client’s perspective. It goes beyond just seeing their outlook though. To really comprehend their viewpoint, it helps to ‘walk in their shoes’ and experience how they’re feeling.

In a recent team development meeting, we had some fun with a powerful Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) tool I love using, called ‘Perceptual Positions’. This method teaches the skill of adopting more points of view than your own, in an experiential way, rather than talking it through.

Used in the traditional NLP method, a coach would invite a person to take on various ‘positions’ to view the issue they wanted to explore or improve. For example, they would tackle the problem as their younger or older self, before reviewing it again as an impartial observer and providing feedback from their new viewpoint.

Our recent creative version of this was to create a scene where each team member adopted a different role, as if they were in a play. We walked through an imaginary scenario where a client was getting frustrated with their machines not behaving in the way they thought they should be, and their subsequent belief that there should be an easy fix – which there definitely wasn’t.

Out of the seven team members involved in the training, two of them played members of the client’s team, while two were Q2Q employees – but not themselves. One was cast as me – or, the boss – and another as a journalist, watching the events and reporting back from their perspective.  The last member of the Q2Q family acted as the scene’s director, getting everyone to act what was happening.

While you can imagine this was a fun session – with lots of hilarious impressions of each other – the underlying message was very powerful. Each of us was able to get into the mindset of someone else, and experience how the situation had felt for them.

Upon reflection, the team understood how they could have prevented any frustration occurring in the first place, by anticipating any problems in advance, and clearly communicating the options and probable outcomes beforehand.

The purpose of the exercise was to highlight that our clients aren’t technical experts, and we shouldn’t expect them to be – that’s what we are here for! But, as in the case of the photographer, when you’re a trained professional in a particular field, it can sometimes be difficult to appreciate what it felt like before you had that knowledge.

Personally, I believe that taking the time out to run exercises like this is an essential part of delivering great customer service.

In addition, this is also a great tool for conflict resolution, or when negotiations are at a stalemate.  Finding the common ground by walking in someone else’s shoes, can often make it easier to bring them around to your way of thinking. Persuade them to walk in yours too, before discussing the uncommon ground!

At Q2Q we use quick-fire versions of this approach for many situations, and we believe that it’s key to ensuring we give the best service to our clients. We strive not only to see things from their perspective, but to understand what’s important to them and what they value – keeping the balance right between, technology, economics and psychology.

Whether you’re looking to understand what your IT company should be providing in terms of a holistic approach, or would simply like to understand how to shift the cultural attitude of your own organisation, the kettle is always on a Q2Q HQ, so get in touch with us here.

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