Leverage the Gift of Diversity–4 ways to be a learner with everyone you meet

Trying to keep your internal (employees) and external customers coming back? Maybe it’s time to engage diversity, embrace new and innovative ideas from all of your customers, and be a learner with everyone you meet.

Last week I was with a client teaching a session on the topic of Legendary Service.  There were people in the room from six different countries and we were beaming out to three more. The participants represented a rich blend of values, generations, depth of knowledge of technology, and history with customer service content.  It was an amazing opportunity to see what service looks and feels like given different life views.  The dialogue was frequent, fiery, and focused.  Below are a few pearls of wisdom I captured from the group’s spontaneous suggestions—with important morals for interacting with anyone.

    • Some of the women felt that a mentality exists that women are not as technologically savvy as men. These very smart women feel talked down to when a product or process is being explained to them. They are left feeling insulted, irritated, and humiliated rather than cared for.  Moral: When explaining a new product or process, treat every customer as if they were the smartest person you know who is simply learning something new.
    • Some of the men felt that women take too long to get to the point when sharing their thoughts. These men want to know up front what women want—their specific, targeted needs or ideas—as opposed to spending time reflecting on whys, hows, and back stories. This reminded me of a football metaphor regarding the difference in men’s and women’s communication styles. Picture the players on the line of scrimmage: “64, 56, 72, HIKE!” Like football players, these men are eagerly waiting to get the ball and run with it.  Moral: Do your work ahead of time so you can speed up the focus and desired actions from conversations.
    • From an international participant:  People don’t seem to listen anymore. Most attendees agreed that people have lost the talent of listening. Many act as if they have heard every question a thousand times. They don’t focus on finding out specific details, but rush to generalize the question and dive into their prepared spiel.  We had a rich discussion on the cost of NOT listening to people—it causes rework, doesn’t solve the problem, and leaves the other person feeling uncared for.  Moral: Give people the gift of listening. Listen to learn. See each interaction as the first you’ve had with that person and clarify what you heard before you share your thoughts.
    • From a brilliant Latin American woman: Many people think they are being efficient with others’ time by diving right into the task—but they forget that some people need to know that there is deep appreciation for their time, ideas, and culture before they can truly listen.  Others in the room agreed that in many Latin, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries it is crucial to build a relationship BEFORE transacting business.  Moral: Build the relationship and show respect before addressing the task.

It’s exciting to live in a generation where we can learn so much about the different ways people solve problems, leverage their history, and stay energized.  Customers expect us to know their needs.  We can learn about and leverage the rich diversity of their values, ages, and ethnicities and their competence at using our products, services and processes. Let’s deliver value to all customers by listening to their voice and communicating with them in a way that ensures they feel heard.


About the author:

Vicki Halsey is one of the principal authors—together with Kathy Cuff—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program.  Their “others-focused” posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.


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