Today I read a post on Service Untitled, How to diffuse an angry customer. Cheryl talks about the poor service shown by a local shoe store and some great ideas to improve it.
- It is important to hear the person out and thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention.
- Call back the customer because it is important to preserve the relationship and keep her as a customer. Thank her for giving you the opportunity to help her and apologize for her dissatisfaction, even if she is wrong.
- Look at each complaint as special since each customer can amount to more business and be prepared to modify standardized procedures when exceptions present themselves as practical and realistic.
- Explain to the customer what can be done to rectify the situation…Consumers do not want to be scolded; they want their problems solved.
A comment from one of her readers reminded me of some experiences & thoughts I’ve had while helping customers (emphasis added):
“…It would send the message you’re doing what the company is telling you to do without giving it your own personal touch and empathy.
The above-and-beyond way complaints are sometimes handled may satisfy customers in the short term, but makes them adjust their expectations for the future upwards. In the end that leads to unrealistic expectations.
In the example above, if the customer were allowed to return the shoes without the box, next time she would maybe return only one shoe, because the heel broke off and she threw one away already. If that were allowed, she might return next time with only the receipt and no shoes and still expect her money back. That may sound silly, but I’m afraid that is what this world is coming too.
I struggle with both views, because as a Customer Care Manager, I want to do everything I can to keep my customers and get them to speak positively of me and my company. On the other hand, I don’t want to give away the farm. Am I supposed to keep giving into customer demands until I drive my business into the ground?
So which side are you supposed to stand on? I would debate that neither side is the right side. Giving into the customer and showing them excessive courtesy can fix the issue and relationship in the short term but long term, it’s generally not scalable and will come back to bite you. Not giving up any ground, being short and condescending hurts your relationship in the short term and, again, can bite you in the end because you’ve lost any loyalty you may have had.
I apply this to any other relationship in our lives. In certain cases you can be one extreme or the other, and you’ll end up just fine. Take for instance growing up with a sibling. You can be a complete jerk to them, get in fights, and out right hate each other one day. The next day, you’re playing like nothing happened. Similarly, you can do something totally over-the-top nice for them, and the next day you’re fighting as if it never happened.
As we grow up, we start treating our relationships a little differently. Take another instance: dating & courtship. As we run into issues, we can be over-the-top apologetic and get through it in the short term, but is the issue actually resolved? Or are we now expected to spend $500 every valentines day? On the other hand, we can resolve the issue by being short, even verbally abusive, but the resolution may get resolved or it may just end up in a nasty breakup with suit cases flying out of windows and compromising pictures showing up on facebook(…awkward).
Successful courtship & a healthy relationship requires attraction, loyalty, sacrifice, and proper communication from both sides. Proper communication includes resolution tactics that identify, resolve, & learn from each issue/situation. Just as many of our dating lives aren’t perfect (some farther from perfect than others), the business-to-customer dating life often isn’t perfect either. To be successful, both sides need to sacrifice to resolve issues. So here is how we resolve issues:
In order to rectify a situation, you need to know what the situation is. Often times a conversation will start out with one issue or concern in the forefront, but will fail to address the underlying issues that caused it in the first place. Both need to be resolved, but if you want to avoid the situation again, you really need to find out what the underlying issue is.
Now that you’ve figured out what the problem is, let’s resolve it. This needs to happen through sacrifice. Both sides need to sacrifice in order to get to a win-win situation. Unfortunately, the customer has usually already sacrificed (at least they feel that way). They’ve usually paid out some $$$ and feel wronged because of the situation. That means it’s the companies turn to sacrifice. Not so much that it will kill the business, but enough so the customer feels like their sacrifice is met and we can move forward. Also, once promises are made, execution is critical. The biggest part of the resolution is the follow through.
Ok, now that we’ve put a plan in place, let’s not go through that again! It’s time to take a personal inventory of our processes to make sure we don’t have another customer in that situation. (especially not the same customer!) When our processes are taken care of, it’s time to get back to business as usual. ie. dealing with the next set of issues that are thrown on our plate.
Here is an updated post on how to diffuse and angry customer.