Person-to-Person Service Instead of Customer Service

What if we thought of ‘customer service’ not as a set of practices to implement to obtain & retain business, but as a practice of being present, person-to-person, being-to-being, no matter if we’re the customer or the sales person? What if we STARTED there? What if we took the time to reflect on the interactions we wish would have gone better? What if we consider our reactions as being caused by what we need to learn about ourselves, even from the most ‘nasty’ people we just want to write off?

What part, consciously or by default, have we played in this relational play? Consider that feeling insulted or judged aren’t reasons to blame, but reasons to examine what unexamined part of us has contributed to an unpleasant or hurtful interaction.

It’s not easy, nor comfortable to engage in this level of self-examination. Matter of fact, it can be downright sickening and extremely humbling when we see our culpability. But it is what’s at the heart of growing spiritually, emotionally and integrally.

This is conversation isn’t for everybody, but what if it were? What if we stopped compartmentalizing our business from our personal life…customers from the rest of the people in our life…who we are at work and how we are outside of work?  What if all encounters were opportunities to ask, “What is this interaction reflecting about my life and where I need to grow”?

Being effective communicators starts with being able to give 100% of our attention to the one we’re with. We need to be listening TO THEM, not anything else. It starts with our own awareness and scrutiny. Whether our distractions are physical needs we haven’t taken care of, such as being hungry, or needing to take care of bodily functions we’ve delayed or thoughts we’re thinking while they are a speaking, all will inhibit our ability to give our total attention. Why TOTAL attention? Because we honor each other by doing so, and that is a game changer. Honor and compassion, even of strangers, is a rare commodity in human interaction these days.

What often gets in the way of honor and compassion is our emotional baggage from the past, recent or distant. The most effective interpersonal communicators do their inner work. They have the courage to examine their lives, make amends and forgive others as an integral part of daily involvement. They are free of the emotional weight and wounds that previously derailed their lives and their ability to relate well with others.

So once again, it all comes down to us. You and me, as the first person in the person-to-person encounter. The more self-aware, self-responsible and emotionally clear we are, the more available and effective we can be with others. Imagine a world where those around us gave us their clear attention, honor and compassion. It starts with one person. Will you be that person in your next person-to person encounter?

Be an Educator Too! Custom building, client relations and communication

We each have a reaction to uncertainty. Some find it exhilarating. Some find it terrifying. In all cases there is an element of stress. If you are a custom builder, you are intimately involved with managing stress-your own as well as the effects of your customer’s stress upon you.

As the builder you come to the table with years of experience in a field your client usually knows little or nothing about. Without addressing this disparity in the way you communicate, you are setting yourself up for almost certain misunderstandings throughout the life of the project.

Consider wearing the hat of an “educator” when interacting with your customer. Educate them about how you do business. When it comes to the contract, create a summary sheet with bullet-points of the most critical pieces that you need to stress, and make sure to use stories from your experience as examples.

Educate them about why you prefer the subcontractors that you use. Educate them on the implications of delayed decision making on the project time-line, their budget and your business, especially if you have other jobs in the pipeline ready to start.

Continue to be an educator to minimize misunderstanding all the way through the project. The worst thing you can do is assume the customer knows your business! If you are stumped as to what topics to cover in this education effort, look no further than the communication breakdowns in your past and ask yourself, ‘What did I learn from that situation that will make a difference for me and this new client?”

This stance may seem elementary to some or bothersome to others. But the question remains the same. What are you doing to create mutual understanding and reduce uncertainty throughout your projects? Your reputation depends on it.