2. Promise action but manage expectations. Calmly commit to resolve the problem, but don’t immediately promise any given solution. Let the person know that the situation is not simple, and you need some time to investigate the circumstances and alternatives. Then give an expected time frame for an answer, and move to the next stage.
3. Investigate thoroughly. There are at least two sides to every problem. Don’t assume anything, and gather facts from all relevant parties. If it’s a judgment or fair treatment question, practice your active listening with each party. If a problem requires special expertise, like a tax question, do your homework or call an expert.
4. Provide regular progress updates to all. Status communication is critical if the resolution time is going to be longer than one day, even if you have given an expected time from longer than one day. This is probably the most important step and probably the most neglected. If they hear nothing, unhappy people get progressively harder to satisfy.
5. Make a timely decision. Meet your committed time frame for a resolution. Schedule enough face-to-face time (not email or text message) to lay out your understanding of the problem, facts you have assembled, options that you considered, and your decision reached, with reasoning behind it. If possible, let the person with the problem choose from alternatives, so you get more “buy-in.” Put the decision in writing to prevent ambiguity.
6. Follow-up. No matter how smooth the resolution, you need to re-confirm the decision with affected parties within hours or days. This reaffirms you commitment to the process, their satisfaction, and avoids any secondary problems. If the problem was a business process, get the process update documented and communicated to all.