Customer Service and Creating a Culture for a Safe Workplace
Second in a four-part series that will discuss superior customer service and employee safety: strategies for dealing with low-risk interactions as a foundation to ensure success with high-risk issues.
By John A. Haley
Senior Consultant, Baron Center, Inc.
In the first part of this series, we discussed the importance of focusing on employee safety by making sure planning, practice and preparation are part of your workplace’s culture. Now, here’s an element that falls under the first “P,” planning; it’s a simple formula to help employees achieve positive results and resolutions when dealing with low-risk 1 interactions.
The LAND model does two important things: it enhances employees’ interaction skills and promotes full-circle customer service. It should be noted that it’s not designed for use in dangerous situations, but in situations where contacts pose no immediate physical threat, i.e., they are annoyed or angry but not threatening violence.
At the start of an interaction, it’s invaluable for employees to determine whether the individual they’re dealing with is a “yes,” “no” or “maybe” person. “Yes” people are cooperative and understanding; “no” people are defiant, angry and uncooperative; and “maybe” people are harder to identify.
LAND works best with the latter group. Quick, positive results can occur with “yes” people, and your policies and procedures manual is likely appropriate to use with “no” people, but LAND helps turn “maybes” into “yes” people. Here’s how it works:
L—Listen. It’s important to begin by determining what the real message is by using senses and experience to look, listen, and learn. This alone can help deescalate situations, as employees look beyond communication roadblocks to determine the root of the conflict or issue. They must be sure to stay on task and focus the direction of the conversation by using five types of questions: factual, open-ended, direct, leading, and opinion.
A—Acknowledge. Employees need to develop identities as problem-solvers by acknowledging all the information obtained while listening and finding common ground. They should use calming techniques, phrases like “I’m here to help” and “we’ll work through this together.” Leaning on a concept called IIWII (It Is What It Is) is something I find helpful to clear the way to correctly acknowledge the situation at hand and diminish perceptions and prejudices.
N—Negotiate. Once it’s clear what’s wanted or needed, it’s time to create an equity arrangement. People are motivated by getting a “fair shake”—being respected, heard, treated fairly and valued—so employees should never lose sight of that. I find it helpful to use various tools (if-then format, resolution options) to allow the other person to have some control over the situation by being responsible for making it better.
D—Deliver. This is where full-circle customer service comes into play: expectations are established, timelines are created and final product delivery occurs. I suggest employees focus on under-promising and over-delivering as well as providing realistic timelines that are regularly updated. Once the situation is resolved, or the product is delivered, it’s important to check back with all involved parties to make sure everything is satisfactory.
If your employees approach interactions with LAND or a plan similar to it, they have the tools to make not-so-great situations better, rather than fumbling through them and potentially making them worse. Using a simple plan to increase effectiveness in dealing with [low-risk] situations accomplishes a number of important things for both your employees and company, including reducing frustration levels; saving time and money; and enhancing service.
Perhaps most importantly, LAND provides a foundation and practice to better handle escalated situations; it can help employees develop the skills, senses, and awareness needed to be successful in low-risk situations and perhaps be better prepared for more serious circumstances. With that possibility in mind, it’s important for employees to identify if people are angry, aggressive or assaultive at the beginning and throughout any interaction. How do they recognize and respond to potential threat situations? That’s the topic of the next blog.
- Low-risk situations are those that do not present an imminent danger. They are situations that are uncomfortable, but there is very minimal indication of potential threat or danger. This would include people who are frustrated and moderately angry, but not aggressive in nature or demeanor; they can be controlled through communication and generally follow all instructions. But, improper handling can worsen the situation. ↩