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Communication Skills Article

Al Borowski, MEd, CSP, PP

Are your communications skills and your customer service skills missing the two most important words in any language?

I learned the value of good customer service through an incident in which those words were miserably missing.

One evening, I decided to go hit a bucket of golf balls. I wanted to test a new driver and three wood I had recently purchased.

On my way home, completely convinced that my new golf clubs would
shave at least five strokes off my golf score, I decided to reward myself with a glass of sherry.

I stopped at a state-controlled liquor store to buy my liquid reward.

When I got home, I was anxious to taste the cream sherry.

When I tried to remove the cork from the bottle, it shattered in my fingers.

The cork was not the type that had to be removed with a corkscrew. It had a small plastic knob on the top that allowed you to pull out the cork. The cork shattered at the spot where the cork was inserted into the little plastic knob.

Now, I have the plastic knob in my hand and about a hundred shattered pieces of cork resting on top of the cork that was still of the bottle.

So, I tried using a corkscrew to get the cork out of the bottle. This only produced more of the shattered pieces of cork.

Still, anxious to taste the delight of the contents of the bottle, I decided to push the cork down into the bottle. Not only did the cork descends into the wine, but also the shattered pieces of a cork.

Undaunted by this minor inconvenience, I decided to pour the contents of this bottle through a strainer into another bottle.

This maneuver worked quite well and I was able to enjoy my cream

Rather than throw the bottle away, I decided to put it aside so that I could show it to the manager of the liquor store. Perhaps I was not the only one who had to go through the strainer experience and that the winemaker might be interested in the quality of the corks.

Several days later, I took the bottle with the cork still inside to the state control liquor store near my house.

I sought out the manager to relay my experience.

I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when the store manager immediately informed me that they do not return items like this to their vendors. He then went on to inform me that if I had returned a full bottle with the shattered cork, he would have gladly given me a new bottle of sherry.

I then tried to tell him that I was not asking for a new bottle of sherry, because I had already enjoyed the original bottle. I was there to inform him about the poor quality of the cork.

In a voice that exhibited quite more volume, he restated that they do not return such items to the vendors.

I then asked him to clarify the fact that neither the vendors, nor the state, cared about defective products. He again in a loud voice said that they do not return items to vendors.

By this time, the store manager and I were the center of attention. The more he talked, the louder his voice got. The more he talked, the more confused and incredulous I became.

I then decided that if he did not care, the state did not care, and the vendors did not care about how customers perceive their products, then I didn't care.

But by the time I went from the store to my car, I decided that I did care. And, that I would go to the original store where I bought the cream sherry to see if they cared.

When I got to the original store, I had to wait until the manager had finished with a telephone call.

I started off by saying, "I'm not sure this is important to you, but I would like to tell you what happened to a bottle of sherry I bought at your store."

I then went on to explain what happened. Before I had finished the last words of my explanation, the store manager invited me to take a new cream sherry at no charge.

I explained to him that my purpose was not to get a free bottle of cream sherry. My purpose was to inform him about a defective product.

He said, "That's okay, take the cream sherry and enjoy."

He then stated what the other store manager told me. He said that they don't normally report these types of incidents to the vendors. But, that didn't matter. He wanted me to have a new bottle of the sherry. He wanted me as a satisfied customer.

Let's talk about communication skills.

The first store manager thought he was protecting the profits and policies of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. His attitude, demeanor, and approach made me look like I was a fool for reporting this incident.

All this man had to say was, "Thank you," and I would have walked out of the store satisfied.

Rather than using those two magical words, "Thank you," he got me upset, made me look like a fool in front of the other customers, and caused me to spend more time going to the second store.

Remember, I wasn't there to get a free bottle of cream sherry. I was there doing something I thought was right.

I really didn't care about the Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board's policies on returns to vendors. I really didn't care what he did with the bottle after I reported the incident.

But, I do care how I am treated as a customer.

After telling the second store manager about my situation with the cork and my encounter with the first store manager, I feel he acted appropriately.

He recognized that I had invested my time and effort and that is why he thanked me. He recognized I was not some wacko trying to get a free bottle of sherry.

Simply stated, he listened to me. He didn't judge; he didn't interrupt; he listened. And then he responded appropriately.

By appropriately, I mean, he said the two most powerful words in the English language: "Thank you."

Thank you for reading this article. I appreciate your time.

Yes, please spread the word. To reprint this article in your Ezine, Newsletter or magazine click here for Reprint Guidelines.

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Communications Skills

Al Borowski, MEd, CSP, PP
Certified Speaking Professional
Professor of Positivity

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PO Box 24505
Pittsburgh, PA 15234
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email etiquette author and speaker is a memebr of National Speakers Association email etiquette speaker is a member of International Listening Association business email etiquette speaker is a Certified Speaking Professional
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