Social Engineering or ‘people skills’ is the key to opening many doors in life. It is a jedi like trick that involves conveying the message that you are someone important enough to have people help and support you. The DYKWIA mindset is a tool in this, but often deployed without grace and therefore fails. This week I caught myself in a Jekyll and Hyde moment of engineering, and I want to share my reflections on this here.
I had to call in to Ritz Carlton rewards. We got the card earlier in the year and have met minimum spend, a 140K bonus should come to us at some point. I need the points to book the Ritz in Cancun for our trip this summer, but couldn’t see my point balance, nor login to book online. In a rush, I hadn’t actually joined the program when applying for the card, knowing that they would assign me a membership number at the time.
So basically I want to achieve 3 things:
- Get online access to my points
- Check my points balance to see if the 140K posted
- Book Cancun
Frankly, it didn’t really matter about online access if the phone rep could tell me my points had posted I could focus on the big goal and lock in my award. Online we’d figure out later.
Framing and Posturing
Whenever I have 3 goals from a call like this (or a meeting with a client) I like to be able to explain my goals and priorities so we can achieve resolution. I tend to do this by telling a CSR in soft terms my overall ‘mission’ for the day, then start drilling down into the nitty gritty. Doing this prevents goal conflicts. But even then, the manner in which you do so makes a big difference. We have the ‘Frame’ of the discussion, the ‘Posture’ is the manner in which you present the need.
Posture is critical, it is needed to create the buy in from the CSR to help you. Extreme examples of this would be if you were just totally obnoxious and abusive to the person you are working with, they won’t help, or on the other hand, flat out bribery. I prefer to mimic the perfect customer, and in most cases I am….
Call #1 to Ritz Carlton:
After pleasantries are over I present the representative with the following statement:
I am trying to book two nights in the Ritz Carlton Cancun, however I was unable to access my online account to do so due to an error. I’d like to resolve the online access so that I can book directly in the future, but my ultimate goal is to secure this reservation.
I guess at this point a recording of the call would help.. but if you can imagine this coming accross without any hesitation in a polite, confident tone. The representative was eager to help, because I sounded like a Ritz Carlton demographic customer, and I was pleasant (those often may be mutually exclusive). Then the call dropped because of my crappy coverage here.
Call #2 to Ritz Carlton
Because I’d already given the first message I and had failed, for some reason my brain wanted to reframe the need in order to achieve goal. I went into the second call saying:
Hi I just got the Ritz Carlton credit card and it should have 140K points with it and I can’t see if they are there yet can I book a room?
This second rep treated me quite differently. Still polite, but there was a certain lack of desire to go the extra mile. I found myself wondering why I went into that second call in a weak position, and why both my framing and posturing were off.
Staff are weirdly brand defensive
Walk into a ‘fancy’ store like Thomas Pink or Panerai shop in New York (or I guess Prada or whatnot for the ladies) and carry yourself the wrong way and you’ll be treated like dirt. It all comes down to perception of what a customer should be. How the customer looks and acts incites a response in terms of service. In my phone calls I first sounded confident, did not mention my history with the Ritz but sounded very much like a customer ‘should sound’. In my second call I sounded like a guy who was nervous, only wanted to stay because of a credit card, and perhaps… should be discouraged. When the 2nd Rep was hired they took this phone answering job with pride in the exclusiveness of the brand, and excited to provide the best possible service to the best possible clientele.
If you are riff raff to them, serving you devalues their position in life.
While you get the same treatment at a base level in terms of politeness, its that extra mile that counts. If you approach a brand correctly they treat you in the manner that they would treat their most valued customer, which for a hotel reservation can include calling over supervisors to open up room space, or upgrades. For the Panerai shop, it is the difference between them allowing you in the store and seating you with a bottle of San Pellegrino.
While I do find it funny to see an employee look down their nose at me, I also realize that to get what I want from the situation it is better to engineer it correctly. Focusing on what you say, and how you say it are key. Fit into their expectations, add value to their perceived position in life, and you’ll do really well. Be advised.. this is a mirroring/mimicry technique. Appearing like a Ritz Carlton VIP when trying to get a fresh hamburger at McDonalds doesn’t fly. You need to connect with the person you are working with.