Sparkling employees make a big difference

Last week I accompanied my daughter to the DMV to get her a learner’s Driving Permit.  As much as I would like to talk about the implications of having my daughter driving around, what I want to share with you is the service that I observed while waiting for my daughter to complete the knowledge test.  


First, let me describe the environment to you.  This is the Department of Motor Vehicles, a government operation that is designed for efficiency and scale.  It accommodates the diverse population of young drivers, regular drivers, and commercial drivers.  Everyone forms a single line when they arrive, fills out an application that is appropriate to their needs and waits, and waits…and waits.  At the front of the line a pre-screener determines whether or not you have the necessary documentation to go further.  If you don’t have the required documents you are sent home to come back again with everything you need.  If you have everything required then you are issued a number and asked to sit down in the large seating area in the middle of the room and wait for your number to be called.  From the seating area in the middle of the room you can see all of the stations around the room and the employees working those stations that are servicing “the next customer”.  Also, from the seating area you can hear the customers either wait patiently or complain and get increasingly agitated until their number is called.


What I observed was fascinating and very relevant to those who are running contact centers.  My observation was that the first impression made by the employee at each station to the approaching customer made a huge difference in the speed and disposition of the interaction.  


Let me share two examples.  One DMV employee (the one that eventually helped me and my daughter) was what I would describe as a typical government employee.  She asked what we needed, and efficiently took us through the process necessary to secure the learner’s permit.  It was nothing memorable, just a learner’s permit.  The customer before us complained for a long time about a fee and she explained in monotone why the fee was necessary to pay again for a re-test.  It took a long time to service this unhappy customer, and the customer before that too.


However, there was another DMV employee in particular who was working directly in front of me and helped 6 or 7 customers while I waiting.  She was fabulous.  Each customer who approached her was greeted by a gigantic smile, bright eyes, and a cheerful voice.  It was exactly the same for each customer.  She didn’t seem to tire of the same smile-and-be-cheerful routine.  Some of those customers were people sitting around me and I had a sense of their level of frustration or agitation before they approached the sparkling DMV employee.  One customer in particular who was pretty negative and agitated was completely disarmed by the greeting and actually walked away smiling.  I was really impressed.


What is there to learn here?  Easy, the first impression, verbal and non-verbal, is very powerful.  The same thing can be achieved in a contact center interaction as well.  Cheer and sparkle can absolutely translate over the phone to customers.  The smiley faces in chats and emails also convey a friendly disposition that absolutely directs the tone of the rest of the customer interaction.  If that tone is friendly, it is productive.  It is productive, it is speedy.  If it is friendly, productive, and speedy…the customer will be satisfied and sometimes even “very satisfied”.  :-)


What do you think?  Do you train your employees to have that sparkle in addition to the other tools required to helping the customer?