Enhance your family time with these customer service techniques.

'Family Golf - Evening View of Golf Ground' photo (c) 2008, Grand Velas Riviera Maya - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Ahh, family time. Laughter around the dinner table. Excited chatter as you all head out on family outings. Tender moments as you watch a favorite movie or make plans together. Don’t you wish every day could be family day?

Unfortunately, family times are actually often a lot less enjoyable, or even bearable. Far too often, our times at home more closely resemble rushed encounters as we each dash in and out at mealtimes, and arguments as everyone tries to get in the last word.

Many of the commitments that we face are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean the conflicts have to be. We’re not supposed to bring our work home with us, but sneaking home some tried-and-true customer service techniques can bring about some pretty dramatic improvements in how we relate at home. Here are four steps to brightening family time with some good old-fashioned customer service:

Listen to the Customer

When someone calls your company to complain, the first rule is to listen, and listen well. That doesn’t mean just letting the person talk, but taking the time to ask some questions. Empathizing. Mirroring back what you’ve heard, to make sure you understand the problem. Why not do this at home too? If you do it earnestly, you’ll probably be surprised by how often you actually didn’t understand things as well as you thought. Express genuine concern, and by all means apologize if you should. People want to be heard and genuinely understood, and if your customers deserve that dignity, then your family definitely does.

Take the Time to Show You Care

Even if you’re sure you completely understand the other person’s problem and even the solution, don’t go there, at least not yet. We don’t just want our problems solved; we want to know someone cares. Being told “All you have to do is…” does nothing at all to help us feel loved or heard or barely even tolerated. So ask questions and listen to the answers. And if there are tears, don’t be afraid to cry too, rather than try to hush the person or tell them not to cry. There’s healing value in sharing the hurt, and you are likely to be surprised by how much closer those moments can make everyone feel.

Create a High-Quality Experience

In business you may spend hours and hours agonizing over how easy it is for customers to navigate a Website or how fulfilled your employees feel as they come to work each day. What’s the experience like for the people who matter most to you, as they see you at the start and end of each day? Are you there for them emotionally as well as physically? Is it easy for them to navigate to the center of your attention? Do you make it a point to have fun together on a regular basis? Would they want to tell their friends about you, and keep coming back for more?

Follow Up

Ever had a business promise to do something, but then fail to do it? That can be pretty frustrating, but nowhere near as frustrating as when a family member does it. Your family deserves your time, and to have such times reserved for them and no one else. If your calendar is always booked, you may need to start writing in actual appointment times to be with each of your kids and your significant other. Allow plenty of time for those encounters, and consider those moments sacred, not to be cancelled if something big comes up at the office. There was a great McDonald’s ad back in the 80s. A businessman was surprised when his young son showed up at the office with lunch for them both. They headed to his office to chomp down on their fries, but suddenly the receptionist called out, “Mr. Gallagher, you’re needed in Production.” The Dad replied, “No, Mr. Gallagher is needed right here.”

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Like running a business, running a family can be very rewarding, but ideally they both deserve a never-ending commitment to fun, love, and hard work. You fight with all you have to not lose your customers. Isn’t it worth fighting even harder to not lose your loved ones? After all, it may be tough trying to win back lost customers, but it’s a piece of cake compared to trying to win back lost families.

Work hard to keep all your best customers more than satisfied.

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