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Dealing with an Upset Customer

For a manager to be perceived as a positive manager, they need a four to one positive to negative contact ratio.

-Ken Blanchard
What do you do, if you get a call, e-mail or find out in conversation one of your employees has given poor customer service? Apologize for the issue and promise to look into it?
Above and beyond just looking into it, you owe it to both the customer and the employee to find out what really happened and why. Whatever the situation, the cause of the customer service issue must be found, understood and dealt with.
In situations like these, I see managers make some very common mistakes. One of these missteps is automatically blaming the employee before they have done enough research into what happened. Other times, it goes the other way: the manager automatically blames the customer.
Either way, automatically placing blame is not the right way to handle customer complaints. Normally it is not just the customer or just the employee who caused the problem but a combination of both.
For example, one manager was looking into a customer complaint he initially assumed was simply the customer being a pain. The employee had recorded every time he responded to the customer’s calls and e-mails, and everything looked great to the manager. After reviewing these records, the manager just could not imagine how the customer could possibly be upset with this employee. However, after a little bit more digging, the manager found that the employee had only recorded those calls and e-mails he responded to, but there were many more he never addressed at all.
This employee had been one of the manager’s best staff members in the past, so he went to the employee to find out what was going on. During this talk, the manager found out the employee was going through a divorce and was not doing well emotionally. The manager recommended the employee see a counselor to help him through this tough time.
When the manager went back to the customer, he apologized again for the poor service, but rather than saying the employee was all wrong and he planned to fire him—which was not true at all—he explained that the employee was going through some personal issues without getting into any detail. He said that although the employee’s circumstances did not pardon the bad service, it did provide some insight into the reason the service had not been up to standards. The customer appreciated the call back, was sympathetic about the employee’s issue and glad that his complaint did not result in the employee being fired. Overall, the customer felt great because the manager took time to look into his problem, validated his concern and then addressed the problem with the employee.
Now go out and make sure you find the root cause of any customer service issue. Never simply assume it is either the employee or the customer’s fault. Then, once the root cause is determined, you need to develop a system to ensure the problem does not happen again.
You can do this!
Published: June 15, 2015

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Jerry Osteryoung

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses—he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His latest book, coauthored with Tim O’Brien, “If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book,” is a bestseller on Amazon. Email Jerry @ jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

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