By Mark Evarts, Tomahawk Recruitment, January 30, 2019
Through the course of my career I became known as the go-to guy when a client relationship was in trouble. I didn’t intend for this to happen and it had its downside as it usually involved being thrown in the lion’s den.
I’ve often been asked to articulate how I go about doing this, which I found challenging as it was something that came naturally to me. However, I can put it down to 3 overarching principals that could be applied to all relationships (even with your significant other):
Actually, there’s one other that sits above all of these, and that is to ‘be willing’. You see, you’re going to have to be the one that says, ‘I’ll make it happen’.
It sounds simplistic, and to a degree it is. There are also intangibles such as a sparkling personality, but believe me, at those times my winning smile was tantamount to zero (actually, worse as it would have been disingenuous).
Following are some simple behaviours that extend from the above principals, and like a genuine smile, they cost nothing.
Be someone your customers can rely on. Deliver to their expectations each and every time – or better. If you’re overdelivering, discounting or including extras, let them know, it will be appreciated.
Ensure you always respond promptly, especially during those times when you don’t quite have the response you wish you had.
While we’re on the subject, just never be late - it’s disrespectful. I understand that unexpected circumstance can occur. If so, be in communication, but also consider that most ‘unexpected’ circumstances could have been avoided.
Be Humble Yet Self-Respecting
Firstly, never interrupt a customer (unless you have a very good reason). Giving people the time to express whatever they need is one of the most honouring things you can do and is often all that’s required to diffuse a situation.
Actively listen during all interactions, and quieten your internal opinions about ‘what’ they are saying, and how you ‘should’ respond. If you actively listen without imposing your own concerns, the best response will automatically present itself.
Understand their perspective, ensure they feel heard, and if needed, communicate what it is that you need to manage in relation to their request. If required, assure them that you will do your best to resolve a situation as efficiently as possible and then make sure you follow through.
The customer is not always right. However, it’s your job to understand what is right and then create the path to fulfill on that, whilst leaving them honoured.
Also remember, it's a fine line between respect and subservience. Find the balance; be proud as well as respectful.
Step Into Their Boots
Simply put, if you were them:
What would you want?
What would be of value to you?
What is it you don't even know you want?
This especially applies to providing an unexpected service, offering, or a simple gesture – the latter being the most powerful.
Operate from a context of pre-empting customer needs and requests. As you conduct your daily and/or recurring tasks, also consider what else would be of value, or how what you’re doing could be altered to provide greater value.
Delight customers by providing services and following up on things when they don’t expect it.
Be the Expert
The easiest way to explain this is anecdotally;
Think about taking your car in for repair. Now, let’s assume there is already a level of trust. When you know that the person fixing your car is an expert you feel confident that they can do the job. You might request something and they might even steer you away from that (pardon the pun), because of reasons A, B & C.
They didn’t just blindly do what you requested, they operated like the expert that you want them to be.
Are you going to know everything? Absolutely not, and DO NOT pretend you do when you don’t. But you are still the expert in what you do know and can get back to them about anything you don’t.
Manage Upsets with Compassion and Dignity
As mentioned previously, most upsets are a result of not feeling heard or respected, and most complaints are resolved just by listening, taking genuine action, and following through on what you say.
Don't be afraid to apologise if you’re in error (including not being in communication).
How you operate in the face of adversity defines who you are and is actually a great opportunity to transform a relationship.
What is the Root Cause?
When dealing with a customer issue, your priority is to address the current concern as efficiently as possible. However, as you do this, consider what the root cause is so that you can mitigate the error from recurring.
Work ’Smarter’ not ‘Harder' & Think Laterally
And finally, it's very easy to fall into the trap of ‘working hard’ to produce results. Whilst this is sometimes necessary it’s not always the best option. Consider that there is often a more efficient way of doing something, you just have to look for it.
However, don’t confuse this with cutting corners or taking short cuts. Working smarter simply means providing the same (or better) service, with less effort or time.
Think outside the box in order to achieve a result, resolve an issue, or arrive at a solution from another angle. I often say, ‘I’m like water, if I can’t get through one way I’ll try another, and another, until I do’.
For a greater understanding of this, look up Edward de Bono (the father of Lateral Thinking): https://www.edwddebono.com