Several years ago, I got into a car accident. I came out physically unscathed but, unfortunately, the other driver was injured. (She’s okay now) When I called my insurance company, I was very emotional and extremely concerned about the other driver. I wanted to tell my story and ask questions to make sure the other driver would get the help she needed.
However, the rep who took my call was very task-focused. She asked the questions on the script without emotion and, seemingly, without empathy. I’ve had the same experience when my beloved Dad was dying from lung cancer. Some of the medical professionals were wonderful, but others were task-focused only. I wanted to scream at one woman who impassively shoved paperwork in front of our faces and wouldn’t answer any questions until we filled it out.
Have you had similar experiences?
Sometimes we become so focused on the task we have to accomplish and the result we want, that we forget to make a human connection with our customer (co-worker, team member, etc) first. This is an important skill to have in almost any profession. For instance:
- In senior living, when you are assisting someone with their personal care.
- At the bank, when someone is getting emotional about their money.
- On a call with someone who has to fill out difficult paperwork.
- In any situation, when someone initiates conversation or mentions they’re having a bad day.
- In healthcare, when a patient is in pain or scared.
Can you think of others? Comment below and let me know.
So, what does it mean to build a human connection?
First, it means to actually CARE about the other human being. Be 100% present and acknowledge what’s going on with them. Are they scared? Frustrated? Emotional? Even happy?
Make a comment about what’s going on before jumping into the task. For instance, that insurance agent could have said, “Ms. Cutting! Oh, how awful to be in a car accident. That must have been so scary and I can hear your concern for the other driver.”
The woman checking my Dad into the hospital could have simply said, “I understand this is such a hard time for you. We’re going to take good care of you here. The first step is to fill out this paperwork, and then we’ll be happy to answer your questions.”
Even if it’s not an emotional situation, you can build rapport by being present, smiling, and asking the customer about something that is not business-related. For instance, “So good to see you! How are you enjoying this crisp fall weather?” It shows that you care about them as people, and you’re not only focused on the transaction.
This doesn’t mean to chat up the customer for so long that you’re not delivering what they came for. It means, however, to show that you care first, and then get down to business.
What do you think? In what ways do you think it’s important to make a human connection first and THEN focus on your task? Comment below and let me know what you think.
Donna Cutting is the author of two books on customer service, including 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers. Follow her on Instagram at @redcarpetdonna and reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.