What do you do if a customer or client has a complaint or a concern?
- Acknowledge the complaint or concern and let the person know that you get where they’re coming from.
- Listen. I mean really listen with your full attention, as receptively as possible.
- Hear what they’re saying … as in let what they’re trying to tell you really sink in.
- Deal with the issue in an appropriate way.
Please note that the first 3 steps all have to do with communication. People want and need to be heard.
Here’s what you don’t want to do.
- Downplay the seriousness of the concern.
- Disclaim responsibility.
- Shift blame.
The word mad has two meanings. You’ll see how they both relate to the following story.
My partner, Tom, and I bought a minimal number of points from a timeshare outfit a couple of years back. Our intention was to buy more points from friends who wanted to sell theirs. We’d combine the points and save some money. The salesperson assured us repeatedly that such a transaction would be no problem.
Yeah, no problem … we find out later … if you didn’t mind paying an enormous fee that makes it a lousy deal. And that wasn’t the only bone of contention between us and the timeshare folks. Without going into the details, there was another smaller but irritating problem that multiple calls to the responsible parties had failed to rectify.
I wasn’t happy about it, but Tom was just plain mad at the time. He got over it, but continued to grumble. Customer angry. Not good.
So, fast-forward. We’re in Aruba at one of the timeshare destinations and they want to sell us more points. You know the drill.
We get a nice young salesman named Rudy. We explained to him the problems we’d had with the company in a very polite and friendly but matter-of-fact way.
Bless his heart. You could see it in his eyes that the poor guy knew right away he wasn’t gonna get anywhere with us, but to his credit, he did exactly what I outlined above. He listened patiently. He heard us. He acknowledged our concerns and he set about trying to make it right.
That’s where his sales manager came in.
She immediately tried to disclaim responsibility and shift the blame. Bad move. Let’s just say she didn’t endear herself to me.
Now, here’s the irony. She actually took on the problem and got it resolved, which was great. I thank her for that. She was the first one who ever did anything for us, but her attitude and her communication skills were so bad that she didn’t win any points for doing the right thing!
She fell into a common trap. When presented with a complaint about a situation within her organization that she was not responsible for creating, she basically said, “Don’t look at me. It was those other guys. That isn’t my fault.”
What she should have done was take responsibility as a member of the team.
“I’m sorry WE didn’t provide the kind of customer service you expected. Let me see what I can do to make it right.”
When there’s a problem, own it.
She didn’t do that and from a business and personal integrity standpoint, that’s simply crazy … as in just plain mad.
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re in. When it comes to dealing responsibly with concerns and complaints, it’s time to stop the madness.
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