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The Counterintuitive Service Manager

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Irate customers are no fun. When I was a service manager, handling the escalated phone calls required rational thought and self-control. In time, I learned about a third and more profound behavior.

The first two behaviors were required to offset the reality that angry customers are looking for a fight.Rational thinking and self-control solidify a service professional’s resolve. The internal resolve includes pragmatic self-talk such as, “Don’t take it personally.” and “Slow down my pace of speech.” and this self-talk serves as a good reminder.

The aforementioned third behavior is the icing on the cake when enduring the combative demeanor of an upset customer. This behavior is also counterintuitive.

What’s the behavior? It’s compassion.

Why is it counterintuitive? Because it’s usually not the first thing that comes to mind. The word counterintuitive implies a behavior that is the opposite of what a service professional would do naturally or intuitively. Counterintuitive are not easily implemented in an instinctive or unconscious manner.

Why is compassion so important?

Compassionate people are good listeners. And while there are many professions in which compassion is a required discipline, police interrogator might not be the job that comes to mind. Yet any good police interrogator will tell you that confronting criminals with abrasive questions isn’t as effective as letting the felon relax until the words flow on their own.

This counterintuitive listening discipline requires self-control, rational thinking and compassion.The same behaviors that calms irate customers will also work on coworkers.

The best service managers are good listeners. The benefits of attentive and compassionate listening are two-fold. Firstly, managers who listen well, in the presence of employees, are leading by example. Secondly, good listeners maximize their own self-control, remain calm and let the other person relax until the required information flows.

Getting “required information” which is mandatory for accurate troubleshooting and diagnosis. However, it’s not always fast and not always easy. The biggest benefit of building relationships is the trust that is established.

Compassionate listening must be sincere,and empathy is paramount.

Empathy is the psychological software that allows people to care about those who need help. It is the capacity to feel the emotions of others. The presence of another caring person makes people feel more connected. When service customers -empathy is a primary skill, especially when a technician is in a customer’s home. Most service professionals possess technical expertise in abundance, but these skills alone comprise only half of what is required. The other half is empathy and compassion.

The culture within today’s HVAC contractors must include more and more empathy and compassion.

When interviewing job applicants, company owners should seek candidates with a sincere concern for helping others. Technical skills can be taught, but attitude is intrinsic -it’s deep within. A person’s attitude grows during years of experiences, influence and outcomes. Therefore, it takes a 25 or 30 year-old job applicant many years to develop their bad attitude and it’s not something you will fix in a half-day orientation session.

There are many applications for compassion in our service departments. And service managers possess the opportunity to lead the way.

Steve Coscia, CSP

Posted In: ACCA Now, Opinion

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