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Consumer Can Help Improve Service

May 12, 1991

Most readers of S. J. Diamond's column, "Service Is Sometimes Saying You're Sorry" (May 3), would agree. And as resigned as we sometimes are to the status quo, there are ways consumers can help retrain poor service personnel.

When facing an apparently indifferent service worker, presume that the person is acting more from ignorance than apathy. How you phrase questions and requests often determines the degree of satisfaction you will receive.

Don't ask questions in a way that makes it easy for the employee to answer, "I don't know." To that person, "I don't know" may seem like a perfectly sufficient response because it is a true one.

Ask questions that will inevitably lead them to act, or at least will make them uneasy if they don't. Even if it requires more of your time and patience, you are more likely to come away with what you want. Certainly more than if you threw up your hands and stormed out. And you may have helped to create a model procedure the employee can apply again and again.

This suggestion generally works best with younger employees or the newly hired. Cynical, jaded and genuinely insouciant personnel require tougher tactics. In all cases, consumers must set a take-charge tone. If we settle for less, we'll get less.

KEVIN GILLOGLY

Los Angeles

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