Perfecting The Customer Service Pause And Ask


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bend-and-snapOne of my all time favorite movies is Legally Blonde.  Ok it’s not my favorite but I do enjoy it.  In that movie we learn an essential customer service technique called the Bend and Snap.  Wait, I think that one is more useful when a woman wants to get the attention of a man.  Actually, the technique I want to highlight is one that will get the attention of your customers.  I like to call it the Pause and Ask.

We enrolled our son Zack in swim lessons this summer and this past Saturday was his first lesson.  When we showed up for our 11:10am lesson, I quickly learned that it was actually at 11:50am.  Wow, how did I get that wrong?  I asked the guy at the counter if Zack could play in the pool until his lesson started.  Seriously, how many kids (or adults) do you know who are going to want to wait next to a pool for 45 minutes on a hot day?  The guy at the desk said that would not be possible and that we just needed to wait for our appointment.

Mildly annoyed, I walked away and called my wife to tell her about the situation.  She confirmed with me that the paper we were given said the lesson was at 11:10.  After some internal debate, I went back to the counter to plead my case.  The dialog went something like this.

Me: I know you told me the lesson is at 11:50 but I have a paper at home that says it’s at 11:10.  Have you ever tried to occupy a 5-year-old for 45 minutes?  Can you at least let him swim until his lesson?

Him: Sorry about that.  I can’t reschedule the lesson at this point.  I can’t just let him swim unless you want to pay extra for him to swim.

Me: I paid $25 for a swim lesson.  Why should I have to pay extra for him to swim?

He pauses to consult with his supervisor…

Him:  “Ok he can go ahead and swim.”

Me: “Thank you!”

This scenario has some layers to it that I would like to unpack.

Seeking to understand

Had the employee understood that I showed up way too early for the lesson and granted my first request to use the pool while we waited, he would have saved us both some time and aggravation and delighted a customer.  From his standpoint, I realize that it is very difficult to discern if the customer is trying to take advantage of the situation and get something for free.  This is a very difficult balance to strike.

Empowered to recover well

When I returned to point out that the pool employees causes the misunderstanding in the first place, he still wanted to charge me to use the pool –even after I had paid for a lesson.  This was another opportunity to override a policy, side with the customer and allow us to use the pool.

The pause and ask

In a previous post I said Stick to your guns and you may shoot yourself in the foot.  When I pushed back a third time on the policy and their mistake, rather than sticking to his guns, the employee paused and got a second opinion from a supervisor.

In the words of Shep Hyken, The customer isn’t always right, but they are always the customer!”  As I’m writing this, I realize that the Pause and Ask actually occurred after I pushed back three times.  The fact that it happened at all is good but after the first push back would have been much better.

If you think customer service doesn’t matter at a pool, think again.  There are several other pools near our house that would gladly take my business.  That is why it is so important for customer service professionals, even at a swimming pool, to recognize when a customer is pushing back and perfect the Pause and Ask!

Now, for a little entertainment, enjoy this video clip from Legally Blonde!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


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