As simple as that sounds, we can make it difficult for others to be able to – or better yet, feel comfortable – sharing how they feel about us. Whether it’s face to face, a survey response, or an online review someone has posted, the old adage of “be careful what you ask for” certainly comes into play.
We think we want to know how someone feels about our products, services, and people because we have pride in our organization and staff – but are we really in tune with our customers, their needs and wants, and the customer experience we are providing?
If your kneejerk reaction to an email or verbal exchange with a customer is denial or defensiveness, then the likely answer to that question is ‘No’. In fact, we need channels for customers to truly express to us what they are thinking and feeling, because their perception of their customer experience with us today is shaping our relationship not only with them but with a multitude of other potential customers tomorrow.
Lack of action propels customer-service-issue molehills into mountains.
So if you don’t agree with or particularly like the feedback you’ve received from your customer, the first thing you must do is try to see the situation from their perspective. We can’t let our personal pride get in the way of seeing the value in what the customer has to say or cause us to disregard their concerns as unmerited.
It’s important to embrace customer feedback at that first opportunity, while any negative sentiment might still be just between you and the customer, instead of between you, them, and their 3000+ social connections (who by the way also all have huge social networks they are more than happy to smear your reputation with as a way to show support for their friend). If you are unreceptive to customer feedback chances are it won’t just disappear. Lack of action propels customer-service-issue molehills into mountains.
To help you better communicate with the customer and be able to understand their point of view, try these tips:
- Apologize – first and always. Even if there’s no evidence in the customer feedback that you did anything “wrong” or that the situation could have been avoided, at worst you should genuinely feel sorry that the customer feels like they’ve been treated poorly.
- Ask open ended questions, like “How could we have handled this differently?” or “Why do you feel this way?” (This is particularly important if the customer feedback was a quick rant like “Service stinks!” that doesn’t help you in any way find the root of the problem.) Trust me, the customer wants to tell you all about the problem because they feel valued when they are listened to.
- Let the customer expound on the issue – they may not have gotten all their pain points out in the initial contact, so it’s best to find out how deep the anthill is before you put your foot all the way in it.
Make an earnest effort to connect to the customer and to understand their concerns. If you can come to an agreement about how to resolve their issue, do it and do it immediately. If you can’t you might have to escalate things to a supervisor or manager. But timeliness of action is vital – the longer it takes to get a handle on the issue and provide a solution to the customer, the more damage will take place to your relationship and likely to your online reputation.
Timeliness of action is vital.
Keep in mind that every interaction with a customer who’s experienced an issue will not be pleasant. When the process is difficult – even when the customer loses their temper or a resident has posted something extremely negative about you in their apartment review– you must set the tone by remaining calm and respectful. Your customer is passionate about their needs and wants. Responding to and trying to resolve their concern shows you are passionate about them as well.
And who knows – maybe the next time you ask your customer to tell you how they really feel, their answer will make you a lot happier.