A Friendship That Has Created an Unfair Situation

Last week’s reader question:

How should I handle a friendship that has created an unfair situation in our department? Recently, one of my co-workers witnessed a friend, who is also a rep, delivering poor customer service. Although those actions should have been reported to a manager, they were overlooked because of the close relationship. A few days later, another rep made the same mistake, but it was reported to our supervisor and corrective action was taken. I am concerned that poor service is not being corrected and that a colleague is being treated unfairly. How should I proceed?

Response from the editors:

Unfair treatment will affect your team’s performance. Your supervisor should be informed of group dynamics that distract you or your co-workers from delivering high-quality service. Follow these steps to present the problem with a professional approach:

  • Schedule a meeting. Don’t show up at your supervisor’s door to gripe. Instead, respect your boss’s schedule and request a 15- to 30-minute meeting to discuss an issue that may be affecting service delivery.
  • Prepare. Bring detailed notes about the problem and how it affects the team’s performance. That way, you won’t waste your supervisor’s time fumbling for information. Example: “The close relationship between Mary and Susan has created unfair situations. Those are causing morale problems on our team. Specifically, Mary overlooks Susan’s tardiness and covers her shift when she is late. However, when Joe was five minutes late from lunch last week, Mary reported him. Joe deserves the reprimand, but the inconsistent treatment caused resentment among team members.”
  • Offer your assistance. Even if you lack authority to act on the situation, recognize that problems with staff relationships place demands on your supervisor’s time. Example: “I know addressing this problem requires your time. I am happy to assist in any way I can. If nothing else, I will continue to promote a positive attitude in the department.”

Quote of the Week:

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” —Donald Porter, British Airways

Tip of the Week:

Handling online inquiries

E-commerce has brought a new kind of customer service opportunity—the live, text-based variety that allows you to chat with customers online. Make it work by following these steps:

  • Type conversational messages. Write the same way you speak.
  • Keep conversations flowing. Place no more than 30 words in each response block. If necessary, break long responses into two or three blocks. That will prevent long pauses and allow customers to begin reading a message as you continue to work on it.
  • Allow no more than 45 seconds between responses. Just as in a spoken conversation, an awkward pause can discomfort customers.
  • Avoid “Yes” or “No” answers. They may offend customers who spent time crafting a question and expect you to put the same effort into the answer.
  • Use canned responses to frequently asked questions to save time. Caution: Don’t overuse them, and personalize canned responses when necessary.

—Adapted from DMNews, Haymarket Media Inc., www.haymarket.com.


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Each issue of the First-Rate Customer Service Forum offers you tips for improving your customer service skills. Plus, you have the opportunity to request advice on your most vexing customer service problems—and receive feedback from your peers and our panel of editors!

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