A few weeks ago I was walking the aisles of our customer service contact center where I work in customer service development. It’s a daily practice I have that helps me check in with people and keep a pulse on how things are going.
“How are you doing?” or “What’s on your mind?” I’ll often ask our frontline team members who are in-between calls or live chats. Quick yet meaningful conversations ensue.
Sometimes ideas for new training modules get sparked as I hear pain points and areas of frustration that inhibit performance. Sometimes I hear about difficult personal or family challenges they’re navigating. Other times the conversation is lite. Banter about last night’s game or the latest new brewpub in town.
On this particular day, I overheard the conclusion of a call as I moved past a cubicle. It was one of our female team members who’s pretty much a rock star. Here’s what she said:
“Thank you so much for hanging up on me today, sir. Have a wonderful day!” And it was spoken in a genuine, upbeat tone. Not the slightest hint of sarcasm.
Then she took a deep breath and fielded the next call without skipping a beat. Same genuine, upbeat tone.
I was impressed.
Tell Me More
We have a nightly ritual at our contact center. Leaders give frontline agents hi-fives as they head out the door for the evening.
Hi-fives are more than an opportunity to say, “Great job today!” They’re also segues to conversations with team members about their day, the customers they engaged, and even their plans for the evening or weekend.
This simple nightly ritual reinforces our culture of hospitality and sends team members home feeling accomplished about their day.
When I gave her a hi-five that night I asked the obvious question, “Hey, did someone hang up on you just a little while ago?”
She laughed. “Yeah,” she said. “It happens. Sometimes people are so rude!”
True enough. Working in a contact center is tough. While many of the customers that contact us are patient and kind as our team members seek to help them, some aren’t.
I recounted what I’d heard her say. I told her how impressed I was.
“Tell me more,” I said. “Is that how you typically handle those situations?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I’ve just decided that I’m not going to let a rude customer’s negativity impact me. Especially after I’ve done all I can do to help and then they hang up on me. I’m not going to let that effect how I handle the next call. So it’s kind of like my reset.”
BAM! Hit the reset button. Genius.
Everyone Needs a Reset Button
Did you ever have a parent, teacher, or coach implore you as a kid to stop and silently count to 10 when you were angry?
That’s an example of a reset technique; a simple, intentional and formative action that helps us get control of our emotions before we lash out in unhelpful and counterproductive ways. Once we’ve processed through our emotions, we’re then in a position to respond in more constructive ways.
My friend’s response to her customer that hung up on her is another example of a reset technique. It’s an opportunity to clear the karma, take a deep breath, and move on to the next call.
We all need a reset button. Especially when we’re engaged in what Kerry Patterson, et. al. describe as Crucial Conversations.
According to Patterson and team, crucial conversations happen every day. They’re those conversations we have (perhaps multiple times a day with multiple people) where stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong.
It can happen with your spouse, kids, coworkers, boss, the person at the store. Anyone.
It also often happens in the most inconvenient times. Like meetings at work when you suddenly feel put on the spot or defensive about an issue. Or you disagree with the strategic direction or decision. Or when you receive constructive criticism that you perceive as unfair or unwarranted. Or when an angry customer verbally assaults you or hangs up on you.
Or a million other things. We’ve all been there.
In those moments we feel our heart start to pound. Our stomach may begin churning or feel tied up in knots. Our palms sweat. Our face gets flushed. How will we respond?
We have two choices. First, we can let strong emotions fuel a path of action that we’ll likely regret. For example, we may respond with anger, sarcasm, or defensiveness.
Or, we can take a moment to hit our reset button. We can intentionally stop, discern our emotions, gather our thoughts, and then respond more constructively.
Two Powerful Questions
I’ve found two questions to be very powerful in helping me hit the reset button when conversations, circumstances, or situations turn south.
Who do I want to be in this situation?
First, I ask myself, “Who do I want to be in this situation?”
This question forces me to step outside of whatever’s churning in my mind and emotions and consider how my default impulses and inclinations for responding at that moment may not help me be the person I truly want to be.
A myriad of outcomes flashes through my mind. Some good. Others not so much. This all happens in a nanosecond.
What’s the next right thing to do?
Once I get a clear picture of who I want to be in that moment, I ask the second question: “What’s the next right thing to do?”
The second question puts me on a path to action that will help me become the person I want to be in that moment.
That’s how I hit the reset button.
Of course, it only works if I actually do it. And don’t get me wrong. I’m far from perfect. I fail every day. But I’m training myself to consider these two questions as my default response to challenging conversations, circumstances, and situations.
I’m convinced that considering these two questions and then acting on them can help us reset ourselves and transform our interactions with others.
They may even help transform our behaviors and thereby transform our lives.
For example, I’ve used these two questions when I’m considering whether or not I’m going to exercise. I want to be the person who does intentionally put the time in on the treadmill or stationary bike and does some strength training. And I know that the next right thing to do is definitely get off my butt and get to it.
This motivates me. Most days. (Though lately I admit I’ve been slacking).
Another great example of using these two questions to transform behavior and thereby your life is another work colleague.
She’s been trying to quit smoking and shared with me that she wrote these two questions down and keeps them posted for easy reference after she took one of my classes. She reviews the questions whenever the urge to smoke strikes. And she says that regularly reviewing the questions is helping inspire her to stay disciplined in her goal.
That’s the power of having a reset button. It helps us not only respond better in the heat of the moment, but it also may help transform our lives and interactions with others.
So What About You?
What techniques have you found helpful for hitting the reset button? Please leave your comments below to continue the conversation. I’d love to learn from you!