Friday, April 22, 2005

T.I.P.S. 101** You Are Not the Target

You Are Not The Target
By Gil C. Schmidt

We’ve all been there: Something goes wrong while tending a customer and the person goes off like a firecracker… or worse. Our reactions tend to be surprise, shock and often anger, but if we just take a second to create some space between ourselves and the situation, we may come to see the basic truth: we are not the target.

It isn’t easy to create that space and remember this basic truth. I have a friend, Carol, who runs an Internet-based driving course business with her husband. Carol often has to provide customer support at odd hours in the morning, when most of us are sleeping. Here in her own words is an anecdote worth noting:

I've found this especially true of "phone support"--you are often the "faceless target" for something else going on in the person's life. Their frustration may not truly be with you at all. Case in point--I had a lady who was MOST upset that we showed her "Course Completion Date" as April 10th (she was to have completed the course a week earlier, and the court wouldn't accept her certificate). We date the certificates the LATEST of course completion or when we receive the student's affidavit of completion. Otherwise, we are perpetually in trouble with the Texas Education Agency. We must issue certificates within 15 days of "Course Completion." Since we don't control when students send in their affidavits, we were running into "noncompliance" issues when we used the "passed the exam" date. (I've had affidavits come in two months after the student passed the exam.) That's why we changed the policy.

Long explanation to say the woman was VERY upset with me because of the “wrong” date--but it turns out that her younger brother had died of AIDS two weeks before, she was the primary caregiver and another relative had been in a car accident that week--lots going on in her personal life, and I just became the target. You have to NOT take it personally when people get upset. They are often not upset with you, but with life in general. You just happen to be a convenient anonymous target.

Isn’t it great to have wise friends?

It is hard to keep calm when someone goes off in front of you, but understanding that the person’s behavior is not an attack goes a long way to helping you face the situation and providing the level of service you are capable of displaying.


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