I bet this has happened to you. You have a serious service need and you call up the company and ask them to help you immediately and the customer service person says, “We will certainly help you get that done.” When you hear that, aren’t you thinking, “Really? Are you sure? Who is ‘we’?”
A couple of years ago I had a very serious incident with my car. Of course, part of it was my responsibility because I was driving a 20-year-old car with 300,000 miles on it. I loved the car, and it was saving me money because, up to that point at least, the maintenance was minimal.
I pulled into a parking lot and the axle fell off. Upset, yet grateful I was driving only a few miles per hour when it happened, I called AAA. I explained what happened and described how the car was “on the ground” leaving very little room for the tow truck to access the undercarriage. When the axle fell, the car dropped all the way to the ground. It would be very difficult to get a tow truck to lift it up.
After explaining the situation in great detail, the customer service person said, “We will certainly get you the correct truck.” I repeated, “Please understand that the car is on the ground and you’re going to need a special kind of truck.” She replied, “We will get you the truck you need.”
Of course, 45 minutes later the wrong truck arrived. I called customer service again and was assured the correct truck would be sent now. Another 45 minutes later the correct truck arrived.
I had a sense of mistrust from the beginning because of the statement, “We will certainly get you the correct truck.” My instincts were correct. Although I finally got the correct truck, it was only after I endured hours of waiting, meaning an overabundance of wasted time and wasted cost for AAA. How could they have made this better? What if they changed their commitment statement? Would it have made a difference? Although we will never know, perhaps you can decide.
Which would you prefer to hear if you were the customer? “We will get the correct truck to you.” Or “I will call dispatch right now and request the correct truck for you.” Which creates a higher level of confidence? Trust? Accountability? I am hopeful you agree it is statement #2.
Of course, you don’t want to commit to something that you cannot do. And you want to be able to commit to something that you can control.
In The MAGIC of Customer Relationship workshop, we learn the 33 Points of MAGIC. Points #23 and #24 create a powerful impression of accountability. Point #23 is offering solutions before the customer asks. Point #24 is setting a deadline or time frame before the customer asks.
These two statements can only work well when we use “I” not “We.” The statement, “I will call dispatch right now and request the correct truck for you.” satisfies the requirement for both points #23 and #24. It creates a solid impression of accountability for both the customer and the customer service representative.
Last week my wife reminded me to take out the garbage. I had waited because we had a heavy rainstorm hit our state and I wanted to wait until the rain stopped. I said, “Honey, I’ll be happy to do it right now.” I forgot.
Of course, the garbage truck came and went, leaving us with a full can of garbage that needed dumping. I had a high feeling of responsibility because I had made a proactive statement with a deadline. I had to make up for my mistake. Standing in the rain, I transferred the garbage into a plastic bag and took it to the dump. I took extra responsibility because I failed to keep my agreement.
Start using “I” not “We” and make a commitment. It will increase trust, accountability, and make a great impression on the customer. This can also help you avoid blame, increase your trustworthiness and improve relationships, both with your customers and your family.
Dr. Wally Hauck is a senior vice president and co-owner of Communico. He is the author of Art of Leading: 3 Principles for Predictable Performance Improvement, Stop the Leadership Malpractice: How to Replace the Typical Performance Appraisal, Unleash Employee Engagement: 7 Initial Conditions for Outstanding Results