In today’s economy, stress levels are on the rise and have been remaining constant. A survey done by ComPsych Corporation, the world’s largest provider of employee assistance programs, found that 71% of workers said it would be difficult to meet their financial obligations if their paycheck was delayed one week! ComPsych has also seen a 30% increase in call volume for financial and emotional issues and a record number of requests for on-site counseling. These are just the statistics for people who are working. Imagine if you were one of the many people that are unemployed and looking for work. Searching for a job in today’s job market can undoubtedly be a stress filled event.
As workforce development professionals, it’s likely you ’re dealing with a high volume of customers desperate for a job and
seeking an improved quality of life. In a society that now has instant access to most things (think email and the Internet), not having the same access to a job can be disconcerting. The following are a few tips on how to manage customer expectations and avoid difficult behaviors before they arise.
Manage Customer Expectation. First, take the time to manage customer perceptions. Even before a customer walks through your front door, they typically have expectations of what your services will be like. Perhaps they heard information from a friend or read an informational flyer that was available. Either way, what a customer wants or expects compared to what a customer receives will definitely influence their opinion of the service they receive. It’s important to ensure customer’s expectations are realistic and grounded in the realities of what you can actually do. Take the time up front to educate customers on the type of services that are available, including any eligibility requirements. It’s much better to address these issues in the beginning than after a misunderstanding has occurred.
Practice Proactive Listening. Did you know that even though 50-75% of our daily communication is spent listening, we only listen at about a 25% efficiency level? Keep that in mind when you share information with customers and also when you receive it. Consider, too, that there are times when customers will only hear the things they “want” to hear. Provide customers with information in writing to reinforce the information being shared. With our ability to listen (up to 450 words per minute) far exceeding our ability to speak (only125-150 words per minute), you may need to make a concerted effort to listen. If someone is talking slowly and you ’re already thinking of what you ’re going to say next, you ’re not really practicing proactive listening.
Use Positive Language. It’s important when you respond back to customers that you keep the language positive. Saying to someone, “I already told you that,” “I don’t know,” or “It’s not my job,” probably isn’t going to yield you the results you ’re
looking for. Enough said.
Know Who “Pushes Your Buttons”. All of us have at least one behavior type that we find harder to tolerate or deal with than others. This knowledge is powerful when you find your own temper rising or patience disappearing quicker than usual. Remember that people may be exhibiting challenging behaviors out of fear or because of their own feelings of powerlessness over their situation. We freely use the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” In the case of some of your customers, the cover, at this point, may be the only thing that’s holding them together. Dig deeper to try and understand what’s motivating the person, so you can determine how best to meet their individual needs.
Practice Your Problem Solving Skills. Despite your best efforts, problems will still arise. Keep a cool head and try using these simple steps to work through the issue. First, work with the customer to define the problem or problems. There may be more than one! Next, describe exactly what you can help with and what your limitations are. Include partner resources, if needed. This will ensure the customer’s expectations are realistic. Finally, agree on a solution or plan of action and follow up. Doing what you say you’ll do will help establish trust and also offers a foundation for future interactions.