Have you ever been disappointed about a product or service that you purchased? Maybe it was late or it didn’t work as promised, or perhaps it was the wrong size or color. Whatever the problem was, the net result was probably the same: You were very disappointed.
So what made you become that so-called difficult customer? Most likely, it was the way the problem was handled. And, chances are, you were treated with an attitude of indifference. That’s what made you become difficult. The same thing is happening to your company’s customers.
Unfortunately, most people are not trained on how to properly disarm and diffuse potential problems. And some simply don’t have the temperament to adequately do the job. So when problems occur, most people resort to the old standards of fight or flight. They shift blame or point fingers instead of taking ownership and fixing the problem.
When training your sales staff or customer service team, keep this in mind: Don’t let them become defensive and take what the customer is sharing personally.
Being combative may result in your winning the battle, but you will most certainly lose that customer for life, not to mention anyone else he or she tells about the experience.
You also don’t want to resort to flight, which means rather than hearing the customer out, you immediately cut the customer off and let him or her know that you can’t help the person.
Teach your people to not be pennywise and pound-foolish. Your customer service policy should empower everyone to diffuse the problem immediately at any cost. And, if you want to have lasting relationships with your customers, follow this simple process: L.A.S.T. Listen. Apologize. Solve. Thank.
Listen actively. Let your customer vent. And don’t interrupt.
Once they are done, your first response should be a sincere apology. An apology is not an admission of guilt; you are just saying, “I’m sorry that happened.”
Then solve it now. Don’t let it linger. It’s like fish; it will start to stink if it sits out too long.
The final step is to thank the customer for giving you an opportunity to fix the problem. Remember, statistics show that a large number of dissatisfied customers don’t bother to complain; they just don’t come back.
Make these four steps part of your company’s sales and service fabric. If everyone in your organization knows how to disarm and diffuse a disappointed customer, you’re that much closer to having a true competitive advantage over everyone else.
Marvin Montgomery is an author, speaker and sales training consultant at ERC, where he has assisted hundreds of organizations in improving their productivity. You can ask the Sales Doctor a question at SalesDoctor@ercnet.org.