Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Is it any coincidence that I listened to the book, “The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers” by Amy Hollingsworth just last week and today #ThingsILearnedFromMrRogers is trending on Twitter? How did the Internet know? Well actually I think this might have something to do with a documentary that’s being released in a couple weeks called, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Regardless, it seemed like a good opportunity to share my favorite customer service insight from the book. And may I say that while I definitely grew up watching Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, I’m only just recently realizing what a remarkable human being he was. Check out his definition of neighbor:

A neighbor is whoever you happen to be with at the moment — especially if that person is in need.

There are two key elements to this definition that we need to unpack a bit.

At the moment

The word “neighbor” is used in many different ways in our culture. It could apply to the people living in the house or apartment next door or it could be the person in the office or cubicle next to us. While these folks are indeed all our neighbors, I like Rogers’ broader definition. If the person we’re with right now is our neighbor, that includes the person at the grocery store that’s too short to reach an item on the top shelf, or the homeless man asking for money on the corner, or the woman who accidentally drops her coffee at Starbucks, or our kids asking a hundred questions about a topic we know nothing about. This definition most certainly also applies to the customer on the other end of the phone, email, chat, Tweet, text, etc.

What Rogers is getting at, and what he did so well, is the importance of making ourselves present in the moment, giving full attention to the person we happen to be with right then and there. It’s so easy to not be present and instead think about our next meeting, or what we want to say next, or multitasking by looking at a computer or phone screen. The first challenge here is to recognize who our neighbor is and be present with them.

In need

Once we’re present with them, we are more readily able to recognize their need and respond accordingly. When we work in customer service, our job is to accurately recognize needs and innovate ways to solve problems. This starts by first recognizing the emotional need of the customer, whether they’re elated, upset, or somewhere in the middle, and responding appropriately. This builds the essential trust required to move to the next step of solving the actual problem the customer contacted us about.

As I think more about this in a support environment, I’m reminded of the onus placed on leaders to allow their teams to focus on being present and recognizing needs. This means remembering that contact center metrics, like average handle time, should be driving a better customer experience. It also means keeping the number of windows agents have open, the number of clicks they have to make, and the number of items they’re required to multitask, to a minimum. Our job is to free our agents up to be present so they can connect with customers and recognize and solve problems.

In the past I’ve shared my passion for the names we call our customers. I’m only referring to good names here, of course. I’m now realizing that I left a name off my list. What if we referred to our customers as neighbors? And while I’m sure this is standard for the likes of State Farm (like a good neighbor…) and Nextdoor, I think we could all benefit from thinking of the customer on the other end of the line as our neighbor. Once we’ve done that, let’s apply Mr Rogers’ definition and focus on being more present and recognizing their need. While we’re at it, let’s apply it outside of our workplace as well!

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you!
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?
~Fred Rogers

Jeremy-Watkin-Blog-Profile
Jeremy Watkin
Director of Customer Experience
FCR

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience for FCR. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service, customer experience, and contact center professional.  He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Customer Service Life.  Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership.  Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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