Elizabeth Halford »

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Catching flies and getting your way

“Years ago, when I was a barefoot boy walking through the woods to a country school out in northwest Missouri, I read a fable about the sun and the wind. They quarrelled about which was the stronger, and the wind said, ‘I’ll prove I am. See the old man down there with a coat? I bet I can get his coat off him quicker than you can.’

So the sun went behind a cloud, and the wind blew until it was almost a tornado, but the harder it blew, the tighter the old man clutched his coat to him.

Finally, the wind calmed down and gave up, and then the sun came out behind the clouds and smiled kindly on the old man. Presently, he mopped his brow and pulled off his coat. The sun then told the wind that gentleness and friendliness were always stronger than fury and force.” -Dale Carnegie

Lincoln said “a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” This is so true, and I learn this and re-learn it over and over again all the time. Here’s a little story about something that happened to me recently and it just reaffirms my belief in this principle.

I am a tea drinker. I love it, and I drink (lots of it) every day. I recently placed an online order to a popular tea company here in the UK. I accidentally left something off of my order so just a few moments after placing my order I called their customer services. I was very surprised after asking if I could add something to my order to be told that it was an inconvenience and that in adding to my order the company would actually be doing me a favour as it would have to be fetched from the warehouse and stopped since it had already been packed.

But I had just placed the order less than a minute ago?! How could it already be packed? We surely had a misunderstanding here, but it seemed there was no telling the person on the other end of the phone. We hung up and I felt like I had done something wrong by adding to my order. What the…?!

I thought about this situation, and as it’s a company that I love I thought surely it must be some kind of mistake, so I decided to write to them. The title of my email was… “A little bit of feedback from a fan…”, and I began by saying, I love your tea and I buy it often. I continued on in a friendly manner explaining that I thought there may have been a misunderstanding and I felt very surprised to have had this awkward moment on the phone as I know that normally their customer service is outstanding. I signed off by saying I was disappointed (I think I said mega-bummed) and hoped it was a silly bout of bad communication. I didn’t cancel my order, or even mention that I had thought about it.

You know what happened next? I received an email from the company with a heartfelt apology – and an explanation, it was sincere and it made sense, and that was good enough for me so I accepted it and moved on. Two days later, I received a box in the post from this company, and they sent me my entire order again with a little note to say sorry. Now that’s customer service! I was blown away by this gesture and it reaffirmed my belief that a kind approach is noticed and appreciated. People make mistakes, misunderstandings happen, things go wrong, but given the opportunity and a bit of gentle handling these things can be fixed with relative ease. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if I had:

a.) argued with the customer services person on the phone

b.) sent an angry email, or…

c.) done nothing at all?

I’m guessing I wouldn’t have any free tea sitting on my shelf.

So if you really want to get your point across, or in fact get anything you really want, do as Carnegie would, and “Begin in a friendly way.”

Kindness is the way to go. All the way, every day.

{Further Reading} Other posts in this series:

  1. Introduction
  2. The customer is always right {even if it’s Al Capone}
  3. Your clients need to feel important
  4. Arousing in your clients an eager want
  5. Do this one thing and you’ll be welcome anywhere
  6. One teeny tiny thing you can do to enhance your reputation
  7. If you don’t do this, you’re headed for trouble
  8. An easy way to become a good conversationalist
  9. Want to interest and delight people? Do this.
  10. Do this. All the time. Everywhere.

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