Here's the transcript of a conversation I had a couple of days ago with the webmaster for a resort whose newsletter I was trying to subscribe to. I'm leaving out his real name (let's call him "Frank"), but keeping in the lack of punctuation.
What do you notice?
Me: I'm trying to sign up for your newsletter, and I keep getting an error message that I've submitted an invalid e-mail address, which is the address above. I have not typed it wrong, and it's a valid address. Can you please resolve this?
"Frank": This is odd, let us check and get back to you. Thanks for calling.
"Frank": We reviewed your challenges with the enewsletter subscription device. It appears to be working perfectly. Thank you for your consideration.
Me: Thank you for looking into it, "Frank", but I'm still getting the error message (I've attached a screenshot). Can someone perhaps subscribe me from your end?
"Frank": yes certainly
"Frank": I was able to subscribe perfectly
you may have put in more than your address…
[Here he writes out my e-mail address with symbols around it] will not work
You need to put in just: [My e-mail address]
which I did!
Me: "Frank", all I put in was my address, no extra spaces, no extra characters. Thank you for subscribing me.
"Frank": sorry, but I got your name in.
Here's what I noticed.
"Frank" didn't ask me what I had typed or try to figure out what had gone wrong on my end.
He didn't offer to subscribe me when I still couldn't get the form to work. In fact, he ended the conversation, forcing me to ask for his help in subscribing.
He then proceeded to tell me what wouldn't work in the form, assuming that I had mistyped my own address or used invalid characters, disregarding what I had already told him.
Then, he basically blew me off with a "Well, sorry, I got it to work."
No assurance that he would look into the issue for other customers, just the general attitude that I had done something wrong and was too stupid to know what it was, and that he had fixed it and all was fine. He demonstrated no tact, no problem-solving skills and very little customer service ability.
Did I mention that he is the president of the company who provides this service to the resort?
And did I mention that this is a high-end resort where customers might expect a higher quality of customer service and assistance (or ANY quality of customer service and assistance)? Also, what Frank doesn't know is that this resort is a client of mine, and the person I work with is the person who probably hired him to do this job. I'm not going to rat him out, but here's the point...
I don't care how brilliant you are or how much you think you're right... never make your customers feel stupid.
If you're in business, you need customers. If you're a speaker, you need audiences...
If you insult your client, customer or audience member, how does that help your business? How does it reflect on you as a company people want to work with or buy from? How does it help you build a good reputation?
Speakers need good customer service skills, too:
Speakers need to listen to their client and their audience in order to understand what they want, need and care about. They need to clearly understand the audience's challenges and problems.
Speakers need to respond respectfully to questions and comments. (Body language needs to be consistent with the respectful response, by the way. Saying something "polite" while rolling your eyes defeats the purpose.)
Speakers need to refrain from making assumptions about the audience's lack of knowledge, ability or sophistication, and ask questions that reveal where the audience is coming from in a sensitive and tactful way.
Speakers need to demonstrate professionalism before, during and after an engagement. All communications, whether written or verbal, must be courteous, clear, free from typos and show proper use of language.
Speakers need to be mentally flexible and creative thinkers, understanding that audiences and audience members are unique individuals and vary from engagement to engagement. No two people are alike and no two audiences are alike.
You may be right, and you may be smarter than everyone else in the room, but who's gonna care when you have no clients?
Now, for a giggle, anyone remember "Nick Burns, computer guy," on SNL? And after you watch the video, consider checking out these previous related blog posts:
Six customer service tips for speakers
Do you make your audience feel stupid?
Are you speaking your audience's language?