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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 109
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2012 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

A warm welcome to all volunteer managers-those of you who recruit, motivate and mobilize volunteer workers.

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Featured Article: Customer Service - The Forgotten Topic of Volunteer Training
Customer Service - The Forgotten Topic of Volunteer Training
By Thomas W. McKee

Tamara wanted a lot of bang for her buck. She was asking me to make the volunteers feel appreciated, but at the same time teach them something. It was a challenging request.

In the last ten years of training leaders of volunteers, I have never been asked to speak on the topic of customer service. But Tamara Koch, Director of volunteer services at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, wanted to do something special for her volunteers. She called me after I had spoken at a Directors of Volunteer's education day and asked me if I could do two things at the same time. She wanted to know if I could give an upbeat, motivational presentation to her volunteers so that they would walk away energized and feel important as the hospital said "thank you" to them. And she also wanted to know if in that presentation I could do some training on customer service.

In others words, she wanted to get the most for her investment in that special appreciation morning for her volunteers.

First, I told her that customer service training was not new to me. I had developed customer service training for over 20 years in the corporate world. In fact, one time the U.S. Air Force hired the staff of my training and development company to spend a day on base as secret shoppers. We had so much fun pretending to spend lots of money, and then I gave a full report to the base commander. But I had never been asked to train volunteers on customer service. As I thought about it, I got excited.

Second, I am often asked to somehow make my presentation not only "a motivational thank you speech," but also to incorporate practical "take-aways" so that volunteers can continue to upgrade their volunteer skills. So, yes, I am used to that request.

But I had never covered the topic of customer service in a "motivational-thank-you-keynote presentation" before. That would be a new challenge.

So last month I spent the morning with the volunteers from Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Beach, California. The morning was a huge "thank you" for the "first class" service that the volunteers gave to the hospital. The place was decorated with travel posters and air-line pictures emphasizing that this group of volunteers were "first class" all the way. The program consisted of special awards, recognitions, and a fabulous brunch. The CEO welcomed them and in his presentation made them feel that their passion and professionalism contributed a significant role in the "A" rating that they had just received in a review of California hospitals. I followed his presentation with my motivational, thank-you presentation on the importance of customer service in what they were doing. I left energized by the interaction, laughter, and practical insights that we shared together.

So what did I say about giving first class customer service?

Here are just three (only three-not all) of my talking points, each filled with group participation, crazy video clips, and humorous stories.

Topic: First class customer service is not a department

1.First class customer service views every complaint as a gift-say "thank you" as you receive it.

Last March I had a fall and ruptured the patella tendon in my knee. Since then I have been on crutches, had many x-rays, an MRI, surgery and am now in physical therapy. (In fact, I taught this workshop with a knee brace and walked to the front of the room with a crutch.) Every time I visit the hospital, which has been almost weekly, I am greeted by volunteers. As you can imagine, I stopped to visit with them each time and asked them the typical questions that you would expect me to ask such as, "Why do you volunteer here?" "How were you recruited?"

On the day of my surgery I was waiting in the reception area and visiting with the volunteer at the desk. I had to use the bathroom, and there wasn't any toilet paper-frustrating. When I reported it to the volunteer, I expected her to say, "Oh, thanks for letting us know." But she didn't. She said, "The custodians haven't reached the bathroom yet today. They will fix it when they get here."

My complaint about the bathroom was a gift to her, the hospital, and the next person who would use the bathroom. But she didn't see the complaint as a gift. She saw it as a frustration and a disruption of her job, and she frankly couldn't be bothered. First class customer service recognizes that a complaint is a gift and says, "thank you."

2. First class customer service masters the 80/20 rule.

Most people practice the 95/5 rule. We talk 95% and listen about 5%, instead of listening 80% and talking 20%. Learning how to listen so that we really hear is the key to relationships. Years ago, in another life, I did a lot of marriage counseling. I often felt that most marriage problems could probably fall into one of three issues: Communication, money and/or sex. If the married couple could solve the communication problem, they could probably solve the other two. Although that is an over statement, there is a kernel of truth in my observation. I found that if couples could learn to listen to each other with understanding, they were often on their way to healing. St. Francis of Assisi put it this way, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

That morning at the hospital we spent significant time laughing as we practiced listening to each other and learned about the unique communication frames we use to make our point. For example, according to Deborah Tannen, a professor of sociolinguistics at Georgetown University, women often use an indirect communication style (frame) while men are more direct. A woman will often say, "Would you like to get something to eat?" which is how she frames her version of, "I'm hungry, let's eat." Gender frames are only one type of communication frames. We also use generation frames, ethnic frames, educational frames, and regional frames.

Listening is the way to understand how the customer is framing their question, message, or request so that we know what they mean. Customer service is not just giving instructions and talking all the time. It involves focused listening in every interaction a volunteer has with a staff member, a volunteer, a patient, a family member, a friend, or a vendor. When we listen to understand the customer's communication frame (the 80%), then we can frame our message (the 20%) to their listening frame.

3. First class customer service includes recruiting other volunteers just like you to join our team.

In one of the exercises I interviewed five volunteers. Their stories were moving. Two were volunteering because of their experience with the hospital either as a patient or family member who was a patient. Another one was a young student pursuing her R.N. As we listened to their stories, you could hear the "Aha's" around the room. I stopped and said, "We have just heard a recruiting message." No one can tell the story better than you can.

Then we began to use the "framing" techniques we had just learned to tell our stories to potential volunteers. First class customer service does not only happen during your volunteer shift. It happens every time you talk about your experience as a volunteer to a potential volunteer and no one can tell the volunteer experience better than you can. When you tell your story, you are demonstrating first class customer service because you are seeking to add quality people to our great volunteer team. And that is first class recruiting.

The day was a smashing success. Since it is summer and my wife had the summer break, I had her travel with me to carry my laptop (a kind of cool benefit of being temporally disabled). As we were eating our brunch, she and I were both flooded with so many "thank yous". The volunteers were expressing their thanks for a hospital that would take the time and financial resources to give this kind of information and practical life skills to their volunteers. Many said to us, "These are skills that I can use in my personal relationships, at work, and at school. Thank you so much."

No wonder I was energized (and exhausted).

Oh, and by the way, I have a really cool hour and a half, motivational "Thank You" presentation for your volunteers on "Customer Service is Not a Department."

Thank you, Tamara, for asking me to do this.

Contact us to book a workshop, key-note presentation.

Liven Up Your Convention or Education Day with Passion, Fun, Laughs, and Volunteer Involvement Insights
The New Breed of Volunteer
A Volunteer Power Workshop
Recruiting and leading the 21st Century volunteers who want to do it their way

Workshop Content

The questions: Volunteerism is hot. From American Idol, Disneyland, Glee, Lady Gaga, President Obama to Wells Fargo, Intel and Wal-Mart, giving back is the rage.
  • How do we take advantage of this trend in our organization?
  • How do we mobilize the passion and power of volunteers in a culture that sometimes stifles passion and professionalism because management only allows volunteers to stuff envelops?
The answer: A 21st Century leadership strategy. We need to know how to impact our volunteer culture so that we can recruit and empower a whole new breed of volunteers.

The 21st century volunteer culture is very different because of tectonic shifts that have changed volunteer leadership. These shifts have impacted the volunteer organization; therefore, how we recruit and lead the New Breed of volunteer is a whole new game. The tectonic shifts include the following:
  • Twitch Speed - The core characteristic of Lady Gaga is speed. She is doing in 10 minutes what it took Madonna ten years to achieve. How nimble is your organization in responding to today's volunteers?
  • Generations - Gen Y and retiring boomers-the new frontier of volunteers
  • Technology - The addition of social networks as a leadership tool
  • Empowerment - The knowledge worker demands to be led - not managed
  • Slacktivism - Getting involved with the click of a mouse
  • Episodic Volunteering - Sign up for only short-term projects or only when unemployed
A LEADER OF VOLUNTEERS STRATEGY: In this workshop you will learn ...
  • How to manage change: How to interpret a changing culture
  • How to empower the volunteer without dropping the ball
  • How to coach your volunteers instead of manage them: The four stages of coaching
  • How to frame your recruiting message in order to transition slactivists and episodic volunteers into valuable non-paid staff
Contact us to book a workshop, key-note presentation.

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