People Care. What is it? Have you ever heard of it? Who has got it? Do you recognise this quality when you meet it? Have you got it yourself?
You will probably have heard about 'Customer Care' which many Companies use in dealing with their customers. Why stop at customers? This is an expansion of those principles into all aspects of your life.
You may ask some questions like this.
Why do I need People Care? I have good skills already.
Your People Care skills may be very good but they can probably be improved, either a little or a lot, depending on your present level. Age and experience of dealing with people does not necessarily make you better!
Why should I have good People Care?
Better treatment for customers and friends, for example, can mean more customers and friends and the success of your business and yourself. Your job is easier for a start. It is no coincidence that staff who get the most awkward customers, and more of them than others, are those with the worst People Care skills.
How can I give People Care at work? I'm too busy and my firm doesn't have enough staff.
The more difficult the circumstances, the more important it is to employ People Care. No Company is perfect, however much they try to get it right. People Care is most effective and more necessary in difficult situations. People Care can give you more time to deal with everyone by eliminating time wasting misunderstandings and arguments in other contatcts.
Does People Care work?
Yes. Most major Companies now have training in People Care skills. You may have experienced it's use when you have been a customer. It is included as a requirement in Customer's Charters in the Health Service, Inland Revenue etc.
This introduction is to show why People Care can help you in your work and in your personal life.
Those Other People!
Other People don't necessarily show any caring skills towards you do they? Especially if they are customers.
There is no training course on how to be a customer. (except this one)
There are all sorts of people, from the best and most reasonable and polite, to the most rude and difficult to please. Oddly enough both characteristics can be shown by the same person because behaviour breeds behaviour. Using People Care skills can change another person's attitude towards you. Make sure that your People Care behaviour influences them rather than their bad behaviour makes you the same as they are.
Some important general advice.
Treat everyone as an individual.
Be interested in them.
Try to find a solution to problems.
Always be tactful.
Show that you care.
Recognise the importance of contacts to the other person.
Use the following Caring Behaviours.
1. Actively try to increase the other persons self-esteem.
2. Listen and show understanding.
3. Offer helpful suggestions.
4. Be receptive to the other persons ideas.
5. Show confidence in yourself.
Let us look at those Caring Behaviours more closely..
1. Actively try to increase the other persons self-esteem.
This is the first principle because it is the most important. Self-Esteem.. Self-Valuation.. Pride.. Self-Perception.. To understand how important self-esteem is to another person, ask yourself. ‘How important is my own self-Esteem?’
It is probably more important to you than Quick Service, Value for Money, After Sales Service, Design, or anything else.
If people are at your house or business premises, (Familiar to you, strange to them.) perhaps, in the latter case, they are spending hard earned money, may be unsure of what they want or what to expect. They can feel more vulnerable and be more sensitive than in normal circumstances.
Imagine every person has an electrical meter inside of them which measures the state of their self-esteem. What you do or say will make the meter needle swing in a positive or negative way. A new contact or customer has the sensors attached to this meter at their most delicate setting. If you push the reading up you will have increased your circle of friends, or achieved a sale, or resolved a misunderstanding. If you lower the reading on their self-esteem meter absolutely nothing will be achieved, except a new enemy or a customer lost for ever.
A person whose self-esteem is lowered becomes difficult, aggressive, or uncommunicative. It is almost impossible to recover a situation where damage to anothers self-esteem is caused, and memories of this are very long, so future contacts, (If you ever see them again!) are also difficult.
Fortunately, memories of good treatment are also long-lasting, with a cumulative effect, and giving a person good self-esteem means you can start from a good position in any future contacts, as they are glad to see you.
Sorry to dwell on self-esteem but it is the single most important message of People Care.
Self-esteem can be lowered in many ways. You have probably experienced them yourself, by being on the receiving end. Examples are. Rudeness.. Inattention.. Patronising.. Bad Manners.. Jargon.. Impatience.. Unprofessional Behaviour.. etc.
Maintaining or raising a persons self-esteem can be achieved by using the reverse behaviours.
Be Patient. Other people have a wide range of speeds of comprehension. Do not judge by your own. Remember that your knowledge of a product is almost always much greater that a customers.
Do not use jargon. Others may pretend to understand in order not to look stupid and therefore lose self-esteem, but they go away as soon as possible to end their embarrassment.
Never be rude. Some expressions which may appear harmless can be misunderstood. See the Avoid Words and Phrases list.
Be attentive. Smile and use good body language in all contacts, business or social. Show understanding both visually and verbally. Use a pleasant and modulated tone of voice. Employ good manners, using ‘Hello.’ ‘Goodbye.’ ‘Please.’ and ‘Thankyou.’ And always use the other persons name if known. If not, try to discover it.
Do not patronise or talk down to anyone, on the other hand don't grovel. Servile behaviour is nor People Caring. It can demean both you and the other person. In general others want to feel on equal terms with you, neither superior or inferior.
Be professional and efficient if selling or providing a service. Do not use too much small talk. Be prepared to give bad news openly and honestly. If you don’t know something, say so! Be sincere.
You do not lose any of your own self-esteem by maintaining or increasing that of the other person.
The next People Care Behaviour is to listen and show understanding.
You should demonstrate listening. Do not do something else at the same time, unless directly concerning the other person, noting something perhaps, or taking an order or making an appointment.
Show understanding by an attentive demeanour and by asking questions to clarify if necessary. If taking an order for something, repeat the requirements, perhaps paraphrasing them to avoid a parrot-like response.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat a request, it shows a wish to get things right.
Show you understand, not just what another person wants, but also how they feel. Put yourself in their shoes.
Recognise and respond to the other persons feelings.
To show understanding does not mean you necessarily agree with the other persons sentiments.
The next Behaviour is to Offer Helpful Suggestions.
Do not assume that the other person knows of possible alternatives to their requirements.
Tell them! The alternative may not be acceptable but the offer is important in People Care.
Show understanding. (Principle2) if your suggestion is not agreed.
Your suggestions should be positively phrased..i.e. What we can do is…..rather than…..there’s nothing we can do except.
Following on from making your own suggestions is Behaviour guide 4, which is to be receptive to the other persons own ideas.
The Behaviours all reinforce the first principle, to enhance the other persons self-esteem. Being receptive to the other person's ideas and suggestions is especially important to this objective.
The other person’s opinions and ideas are valuable to them, and therefore to you.
There is no such thing as a stupid question from the other person. You may be an expert in your own field and therefore fail to understand and appreciate the other persons poor or non-existent knowledge of the subject.
If the other person is involved in problem solving, and their own ideas are sought, they will not feel that a solution is imposed on them.
It may well be possible to agree to the other persons suggestion. Date for action for example.
To have listened to, and been seen to have considered, the other persons request or suggestion, even if it cannot be met, is positive People Care.
Two heads are better than one in problem solving.
The next Behaviour is to Show Confidence in Yourself.
There is nothing more damaging for People Care that for a customer to hear an employee criticising the company they represent. It can be done as an excuse for delay… E.g. ‘We’re short of staff. They never employ enough staff on Fridays, and we get the complaints from customers, it isn’t fair.’
This sort of excuse does not gain sympathy, a customer will think that a person who can run down, and therefore let down, their colleagues, managers and company in this way, will just as readily let them down.
A customer wants to repect the person who serves them. (It enhances their own self-esteem.) No one really feels sorry for a member of staff who is acting as a victim. There is embarrassment at this washing of dirty linen in public. A customer does not differentiate between ‘Them’ and you. You are the Company as far as a customer is concerned.
Of course if you are serving other people there can be delays and staff shortages which will affect the level of service. As customers we have all waited, but when we are served we want an apology and a positive attitude……'Sorry to have kept you waiting, how can I help you?'
Delays are inevitable……With People Care they can be made more acceptable.
People Care Language.
Please watch your language!
What you say to other people is most important. There are phrases which quite unintentionally can give offence. This list will make you aware of the possible negative effect that a listener can get from phrases that seem to be harmless enough. The degree of aggravation is increased if the other person is already upset or hostile.
Obviously. Any fool would have known.
As I said before. Are you deaf?
I beg to differ. You are talking rubbish.
With respect. Can mean the reverse.
With great respect. With great contempt.
If you don’t mind me I don’t care if you do mind, I’m
saying so… saying it anyway.
This time. Don’t come back.
What you were told was this. You are deaf or daft.
As far as I’m concerned. I don’t care about you.
I hear what you say. But I’m taking no notice.
You must be joking. An insult. (If they are not.)
Try to avoid jargon, unless you are sure the other person understands it.
Please put the Caring Behaviours to use and you will greatly improve your People Care skills. All that is now necessary is to explain a Structured way of dealing with other people in all situations for your People Care to be complete.
The Structure Of People Care contacts.
This Structured way is concerned with giving a planned sequence to all contacts with other people. This strategy is employed in all situations, whether face-to-face, or on the telephone. Using a structured approach is most helpful in difficult situations.
The sequence of the structure is as follows.
A FRIENDLY GREETING.
The success of any subsequent transaction can depend on the greeting so please ensure you do not give yourself an unnecessary handicap.
The greeting should be friendly, give the person your whole attention, a smile is important. Be courteous but not familiar to a stranger. Use the person’s name if you know it, this personalises the contact and enhances the other persons self-esteem at once.
If you use the other persons name and have a name badge of your own, the other person will be more likely to address you by your name.
For a person to be remembered from a previous contact is an excellent start even if you do not know the name. ‘Nice to see you again.’ Is a disarming and friendly greeting.
Avoid the ‘joking insult’ type of greeting. Like ‘Hello trouble.’
People may appear to share this sort of joke but it’s success depends too much on their mood. It is not good for other people within earshot who may never wish to be addressed in this way.
If the person is a customer, the normal ‘Can I help you?’ with a pleasant expression and inflexion is fine in the open shop situation. If you are not needed you can still give ‘People Care’ by saying ‘Just let me know if you need help.’ And go away.
At the customer at a counter situation. ‘How can I help you?’ is better, because the other person obviously wants something and the previous salutation could be resented by the most sensitive person. It is the most sensitive that we must consider, if we don’t offend them we offend no-one.
A caution in the use of ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ in your salutation.
Some people feel patronised by this. In reply to the question….'what do we call the customer?' The answer is nothing! If you know the name, use it. If you can discover the name, do so, and use it.
In difficult situations the tendency is to use ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ more and more. This should not be done as it can be a put down and is more usually associated with a negative message.
Remember the greeting sets a positive tone giving the other person confidence in you, and if you are serving a customer, confidence in you and your Company.
ASK FOR DETAILS OF ENQUIRY.
This is the second part of the contact structure, Behaviour 2 (Listen and Show you Understand) is most important at this point.
You can’t help the other person until you know what they want!
Do not guess or anticipate, or put words into their mouths.
The other person may have rehearsed their request, let them put it in their own way.
Asking for specific details, when appropriate, shows the other person your professionalism and desire to help. The more detail you get, the more you indicate that you want to help and get it right.
You can show you are listening by attentive body language and judicious repetition of key points. Show empathy, especially if you are dealing with a complaint, put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
A greeting of ‘How can I help you?’ can fulfil this part of the Structure as well as the greeting. But the other person may well follow up by requiring other re-assurances before you can actually find out their requirements.
For example, questions of ….’Is this where?’ or ‘Do you stock?…’
Be helpful and show patience at this stage.
The other person may speak first with ‘Can you help me?’ DO NOT qualify your answer with ‘It depends..etc.’ be positive and reply. ‘Yes of course, What can I do for you?’
SHOW YOU UNDERSTAND THE OTHER PERSON.
When you think the other person’s exact requirements are known you can show understanding by repeating them back, preferably paraphrasing to some extent.
This summary is a re-assurance to the other person that they have conveyed to you what they want. It is time saving, no time is wasted offering the wrong goods or information. You show that you are focussed on the problem.
Remember, you may have misunderstood the other person completely, by using this third part of the Contact Structure the other person has an opportunity to correct any misunderstanding, and if you are not clear any doubtful points will have been highlighted, and you can move on.
CHECK IF NECESSARY.
The message to you in this part of the Contact Sequence is that checking is better than guessing.
If you have any doubts on details, or perhaps have omitted to ask some necesssary questions, do so now, before reaching the concluding stages.
This stage can be omitted if you are satisfied that you have all the information you need.
OPENLY TELL THE OTHER PERSON WHAT YOU CAN, OR CANNOT DO.
If you are dealing with a customer, your objective is of course always to satisfy the Other Person. Let them know that is your goal. It may not be possible to provide what they want, you then have to explain what you can or cannot do.
Other people often do not know what to expect, so do not give them the message that their expectations are wrong. Be honest, it is good for the other person’s self-esteem.
Do not deliberately make bad news unclear to escape criticism. Be tactful, not brutal, but be clear and open.
For example, if you have made a mistake, don’t hide it, just say, It’s my fault, I’m sorry.’ If your Company has made a mistake say, ‘It’s our fault, I’m sorry.’ (NOTE Not…’We’re sorry.’)
Everyone, and every Company makes mistakes, don’t say that to the other person though, it devalues the apology.
If you have to apologise never follow it by ‘..but..’ and some qualification. That devalues the apology. An explanation can follow of how it happened, do not minimise the effect on the other person however small the error.
REACH AGREEMENT ON ACTION TO BE TAKEN.
Reach Agreement on the immediate action to be taken. It may only be the first stage in a series of actions. It may be action to be taken by you or the other person, be clear between you which it is.
This is also the part of the Contact Structure where you involve the other person in problem solving if necessary. (Behaviour 5.)
THANK THE OTHER PERSON.
If they are a customer it is better for the Other Person to come to you with a complaint than to tell others.
A problem should be seen as an opportunity, and a dispute handled properly, with People care, can enhance a customer’s opinion of your organisation and create a loyalty that may not have been engendered with a trouble free service.
The ‘Thank-you.’ Gives a good point of ending the contact.
If a further enquiry is made go back to the second part of the Contact Structure and start again.
Remember the importance of a transaction to a customer. You may deal with hundreds of enquiries in one day, but the individual customer has only made one. That one is the most important of the hundreds to them, your People Care must reflect that.
Focussing on the other person’s problem is professional and good People Care. The problem is the important thing, not the customer’s personality, or previous irrelevant history.
Keeping calm is not always easy. Don’t over-react to pent up and probably rehearsed abuse. Don’t give like for like. Met with understanding the other person may apologise to you in due course. If so, your reply should not be of the ‘I should think so.’ variety, or the ground gained is lost straight away. The reply should be, ‘That’s all right, I can understand how annoying it was to have that happen.’
Remember that People Care should extend to colleagues within your Company or Organisation, they are often in the role of customers. If the principles of People Care are not used within a Company, that will probably be transmitted to ‘external’ customers. A caring culture within your Organisation is very important. Show that you, personally, CARE.
REINFORCEMENT OF PEOPLE CARE.
Make People Care stronger, make it your normal conduct and the normal attitiude of your Company. Make it getter better all the time, by reinforcing it.
Praise is a good motivator. If you see good People Care practice used, then praise it.
Do not praise so excessively, or frequently as to devalue it. Follow these rules..
PROMPT praise. Do not leave it too late, praise as close to the action as practicable.
SPECIFIC praise. Not ‘That was all well done.’ Because the recipient will not know exactly what action to repeat.
Pick a particular action or phrase, such as ‘That was a difficult problem to deal with, (Use name..Behaviour 1.) but when you said. “I’m sorry I understand how inconvenient it is for you to have to come back tomorrow Mrs Jones.” You used your People care Behaviour 2, showing understanding, and used the Lady’s name. Well done.’
Do NOT mix praise with criticism, such as ‘Well done, but etc…’ The praise will simply be seen as a vehicle or excuse for the negative message. If correction is necessary, keep it entirely separate from the reinforcing praise.
Practice People Care till it becomes second nature. Use it on everyone, customers, friends, relations, neighbours, bus drivers. Not only will it be better for all those people, it will make your life better too.