Saturday, June 11, 2011

It's a Cooperative Effort

Because I've been involved in customer service and support for a good portion of my life, people I know tend to tell me their best and worst stories. The other day, I was having dinner with my friend and mentor—let's call her Barb. She is one of the smartest people I know, but not super-savvy when it comes to computers. It's not unusual to get an email from Barb with the subject "Help!" and I am always delighted to lend a hand or point her in the right direction to get the assistance she needs.

The other evening, Barb told me about an experience she'd had very recently at a hotel. She was having a devilish time getting her iPad to connect to the hotel's wireless Internet service. She tried getting help from the front desk, but they ran out of suggestions rapidly. They are paid to get customers into and out of the hotel quickly and easily, and take care of their needs as guests—not as technical support people. So Barb called the toll-free number listed on a card in her room for assistance with wireless.

Barb told me that the man who answered her call was polite and patient, and asked her a series of questions about where (exactly) she was, and of course what type of device she was using. Barb told me that he seemed to know more about how to navigate the settings of the iPad than she did, talking her into the exact panel he needed her to look at. While she maneuvered through the settings, she touched the wrong thing a couple of times, meaning that she had to get back to where she was before she could proceed. Her patient assistant stayed right with her. She, on the other hand, was feeling rather inadequate and, to put it the way she did, stupid.

At last, she got to where she needed to be, and the tech support person asked her to read him the device's  hardware address, a specific identifier for the network interface on any network-connected device. When she had read it to him, the tech said some very magic words:

"Thank you for helping me."

Barb told me that her whole mood changed at that exact moment. It was then that she realized that this was  a cooperative effort in problem solving. She didn't need to feel inadequate; she only needed to answer some question and describe the results to the tech. They were working as a team to accomplish a goal.

The iPad was quickly on the network, Barb's email was flowing, and the tech earned a big thank you from her.

In your interactions, whatever they are, can you think of a way to make it a cooperative effort?

Give it some thought.