Understand that most problems are a good sign. Problems indicate that progress is being made, wheels are turning, you are moving toward your goals. Beware when you have no problems. Then you’ve really got a problem... Problems are like landmarks of progress.
My life partner and I went out to a restaurant the other day. She ordered a pizza, which is something she does not have often, but she was really in the mood for a great pizza.
When the server brought the pizza over, it looked wonderful. However, when Ellie tasted it, she said it was akin to chewing on cardboard. Then I tasted it. It tasted much worse than cardboard to me.
We called the waiter over to tell him, and he proceeded to argue with us that it was great pizza. He had just had some for lunch, as a matter of fact. In essence, what he was saying to us was, “If it was good for me, it must be good for you.” Well, his pizza may have tasted great, but Ellie’s was awful.
Then, when he brought the bill over, he said he had not charged us for the pizza because we did not eat much of it. Notice how he put the blame on us for not eating the pizza rather than making it the fault of the restaurant for not making it well.
This waiter clearly did not want to hear what we were saying. He was only interested in being right, not doing the right thing – which are very different things.
When you argue with a customer, you never “win.” Doing so only drives a wedge between the customer and the business. Blaming an upset customer for anything stops all communication and almost guarantees they will become a spokesperson for how bad your business is.
Alternatively, if you handle the situation right, you can frequently take an upset customer, turn them around and make a raving fan out of them. All you need is three simple steps. First, apologize for the issue. Second, tell them the fault was ours. And third, ask what the business can do to make the situation better for the customer. Had our server followed these simple steps, our experience would have been dramatically different.
With such a simple process, it is easy to train your staff the right way to deal with these situations —which is critical.
Understandably, not all customers are going to be satisfied, but those numbers are going to be very small. Regardless, this approach will minimize any negative reaction to poor performance.
Now go out and make sure you have a viable plan in place to deal with any problems that may arise with your customers.
You can do this!
Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant and professor (emeritus) at Florida State University, can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung @gmail.com.