It is easy to compare, especially now with the accessibility of different social media platforms. Each day you see self-inflation and are made to believe a perfect image. Even after all the success of my own organization, we had problems, challenges, and customer complaints. The most common issue any organization faces is making customer service mistakes that impact relationships and have lasting results.
As the owner of my organization, I have heard many complaints over the years from customers – and some were very angry.
So how do you handle customer complaints? If you work in a church, how do you handle complaints from your members? Complaints and customer service are not localized to the sphere of business. However, I am going to share some universal mistakes made in all spheres when it comes to customer service.
The First Customer Service Mistake: Defensiveness
In my earlier years of running my company, I approached it this way: When I knew an upset customer wanted to talk with me, I would first go and get all of my facts about the situation before I would talk with the customer. I was gathering evidence for my case.
Getting all of those facts first prepared me to…
- Be “loaded for bear”
- Defend my organzation
- Prevent the customer from embarrassing me
- Allow me to set the customer straight on what really happened
- Save my company money by not having to correct the complaint
- Win the argument
Observation: Can you see my “pride” all over the method above?
Pride is the First Customer Service Mistake
I learned this method was not working because that customer not only became an “ex-customer” but also, I stirred a passion in that “ex-customer” that they made sure several potential customers heard of their complaint and how I handled it.
That was not good. We see that pride is often a critical customer service mistake. The Bible deals a lot with this issue, and it always ends in disaster. When we can walk in humility it gives us the ability to listen and grow.
Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. Proverbs 18:12 NIV
Tips to Grow in Our Customer Service
Through trial and error, I finally discovered a method that has worked well for many years.
Following these tips, I have learned to grow and serve customers more powerfully.
- Cherish complaints because they open our eyes to gaps in our customer communication and service.
- Tip: Always remain calm and respectful. Customers are not our natural-born enemies. We need to build relationships.
- Take these phone calls immediately without first gathering all the facts to defend yourself or your organization.
- Focus fully on listening to what the customer had to say so you can empathetically feel and understand
- Do Not fill your mind with the baggage as I did that often resulted in defense or case against them.
- Never interrupt the customer, but allow them to fully express and vent their frustrations.
“The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.” – Alfred Brendel
- Confirm understanding by agreeing with how they felt and asking questions to demonstrate that you are
- Enlist help from the customer in the creation or selection of a solution to rebuild a positive relationship.
- Ask for permission to gather appropriate information and call back in 10 minutes.
- Never forget to call back in ten minutes, even if you may not have all the information, this assures the customer they can trust your word. And if you need more time, ask permission to call back later.
Disarming the Anger of a Customer
Often while the customer was complaining they would often say, “You probably already know….” And it felt so good to say with integrity, “No, because I wanted to hear from you first before I went to hear what our people had to say.” I found customers were so surprised by my answer that it really disarmed them because they expected a defensive confrontation.
Exception: If I ever had a customer get so emotional that they started to curse at me, I would calmly and politely warn them that if they did not stop, I was going to end the call.
“Your emotions will always override your intellect.” – Bobby Albert
Every leader and every person can handle an angry customer by using these two practices.
Maintaining good communication between people in a family, with friends, and at work is rooted in mutual understanding and is fundamental to their mutual success.
Our company often held what we would call an AQLTM (Ask Questions and Listen) QIC-Day. We experienced the following two practices, and we discovered that all of us have lots of room for improvement in the skills of:
- Asking Questions and
Even though our AQL QIC-Day emphasis was focused on asking quality discovery questions, we did spend time learning how we could improve our listening skills.
And we used a customer complaint role-play to illustrate and teach us the skill of listening.
In Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he shared the practice of empathic listening.
When practicing empathic listening, people are really trying to discover and understand what the other person is saying and feeling from the other person’s point of view.
Empathetic listening requires listening and responding with both the heart (motive) and the mind to understand the speaker’s words, intent, and feelings.
The essence is not that you agree with someone. It’s that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey
Until the complaining customer (or anyone else) feels understood, they are not…
- Motivated to listen to you
- Receptive to your wise counsel
Is there room for improvement when it comes to your listening skills?
When you must deal with a complaining customer, you’ll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking good questions.
Stephen Covey shares from his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the following sampling of his questions used to acknowledge understanding when there is high emotion present:
- “As I get it, you felt that….”
- “I’m picking up that you….”
- “So, as you see it….”
- “What I guess I’m hearing is….”
- “As I hear it, you….”
- “Your feeling now is that….”
- “You must have felt….”
Everyone can improve their customer service by adopting these AQLTM (Ask Questions and Listen) principles.
The skills of asking questions and listening will help you effectively address your unhappy customers.
And they must be built on a caring attitude and sincere desire to understand and serve your customers.
- What has been your method of handling customer complaints?
- Do you first gather all of the facts?
- Do you ask questions and listen?
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