With the new Aretha Franklin movie, Respect, coming out, it’s a great time to talk about Respect in customer service. Respect is a word, a concept, an experience that’s brought up a lot in customer service, and it’s usually discussed when someone has been disrespected, Respect is part of an organization’s values or standards, or a customer demands Respect.
But what is “Respect?” While there is no universally accepted definition of Respect, I find it interesting that in Aretha Franklin’s song she says “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” Maybe that’s the reason we don’t have a universal definition – because it can mean different things to different people.
When we’ve talked with clients about Respect in customer service, particularly in staff workshops, we often start defining Respect by first defining the opposite – what it means to be disrespected. The answers flow quickly:
- No eye contact
- They don’t listen to what I say
- They cross their arms or roll their eyes
- They look at their phone
- They interrupt me, are rude, or argue with me
- They give me an attitude that’s condescending
- There’s no greeting at the start, no “Thank You!” at the end
- They have a dismissive tone in their voice.
These are examples of issues with body language, tone of voice, poor communication skills, and lack of patience among many other concerns. But what’s the commonality? The commonality is how it makes the other person feel. They feel “less than” or not listened to or not valued or unimportant.
Now, I’ve often said that we have no control over how others feel, but we can do things to impact the likelihood that they’ll feel a certain way. So, Respect is as much about what we don’t do as it is by what we do; it’s about focusing on nothing but the other person. It’s about thinking about nothing but this situation. It’s about conveying nothing but an interest in the customer. It’s about nothing but them.
To Respect someone, ensure you avoid things that convey disrespect. Work to do nothing but Respect the other person.