A friend of mine works for a tech startup.
He tells me that whenever the company interviews candidates for their customer service positions, the last question on the list is as follows.
Would you rather be friendly or right?
It’s an interesting concept. Especially in the black and white world of tech support, when frustrated and impatient users just want answers.
But I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, why does it have to be binary decision? When did we decide that every question could be answered with either yes or no?
After all, polarized mindsets keep us from expanding our sense of possibility.
Personally, I would rather be friendly than right. And here’s why.
First of all, friendly is one of the few things in the world that costs nothing and changes everything. It lays a foundation of affirmation. It diffuses customer defensiveness. And it helps ensure a positive impression that’s left after the interaction, regardless of whether or not the problem is resolved.
Secondly, if you lead with friendly, customers are more likely to be receptive and understanding of the information that follows. Even if it proves they were wrong and you were right.
Lastly, if a tech support representative is friendly and kind and easy to talk to and a joy to listen to and delivers a service moment bundled with surprise and delight and value, then right or wrong is neither here nor there.
I’ve been a volunteer at my yoga studio for several years, answering phones and checking people in at the front desk before and after class. And every time there’s a problem, whether it’s a botched credit card payment or a lost water bottle or a coupon code, I choose friendly over right.
Because in a city where customers expect their retailers to be cold, rude, fast and all knowing, the smallest thing can feel like magic to someone who’s been living with a problem.
Next time you pick up the phone to troubleshoot, place the caller’s desire for friendly over your need to be right.
Customers want real human moments, not one more nudge in the direction that you have decided they need to go.
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