Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trust Me. I'm a Consular Officer.

We are the only game in town; do our ACS customers really need to trust us?  After all, they can't go to some competing consulate down the street if they don't like us.

But of course they need to trust us, or they won't accept what we tell them. What, in our world, inspires trust for our ACS customers?
How about knowledge, fairness, patience, and a willingness to hear them out?

There are so many possible ways to greet Americans at the ACS window.  The most effective greeting by far, Madam has found, whether cold at the window or when you've been fetched by an FSN who is fuming over the way the jerk talked to her, is, "Hi.  Can I help you?"

This colloquial language, coupled with a businesslike but not stiff air and a friendly look, is a never-fail tension cutter and stress reliever.  It portrays us as informal, open, willing, and unaffected by his having made our favorite FSN weep with fury.

It proves instantly that we are 'real' Americans. This is critical for customers whose brains freeze when they have to try to communicate with other-than-native American English speakers, or who are inclined to distrust foreigners in general. They know for sure they will be understood, and will understand what we say.

It proves that we intend to help them with whatever their problem is.

It proves that we probably know what we're doing, and they will be safe in our hands.

And it requires the customer to tell the story from the top.  That - oddly enough - is a stress reliever in itself.  After all, if the customer has acted like a jerk, he probably realizes that he has, and this opening shows that we have not been primed to scold them or to be defensive, or that we have a canned response to trot out.

Finally, this greeting makes the customer start with either, "Yes" or "I hope so," the mere vocalizing of which lowers his guard and turns the stress level down. If he comes back with, "Didn't she tell you?" we can answer calmly, "Yes, but I want to make sure that I understand."  Mollified, he will usually go on with "I'm trying to.." or "I need to..." or "I want to..." or a similar entrance which forces him to articulate what he wants materially rather than encouraging him to launch an unproductive gripe about the perceived inadequacy of the service he's gotten so far.

Once we have him talking reasonably and in an organized way, all we have to do is not blow it.

And after what our FSN had to put up with, that should be a piece of cake.

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