On December 26th, 2015, I was racing to get a few things taken care of so that we could catch our flight to Utah for a week a family snowboarding.
There were two issues I had to get resolved before we left: My Quicken online bill pay system was giving me fits and the password system on my new Mac was not cooperating. Since there were bills coming due while we were gone I decided to tackle the bill pay issue first.
I called Compass Bank, my bank at the time. After more than 20 minutes of waiting on hold I was growing increasingly frustrated. When the agent finally answered the phone, she was greeted by fury and frustration.
Time for a short disclaimer: I am neither proud of my behavior on that day, nor do I condone it.
The poor agent sure did not deserve the way I reacted. However, rather than validate my emotions, apologize for the delay and take responsibility, she immediately became defensive and blamed it on the fact they were under staffed. She even gave me the impression that it was my fault for calling in the day after Christmas.
How do you think I responded? I became even more incensed.
This situation was not her fault; however, it was her organization’s fault. The leadership of the facility is responsible for having the proper staff and structure to provide a client experience that matches their brand promise. (Surely they do have a brand promise, don’t they?) When the customer experience falls short of that promise, the organization should teach their representatives how to take responsibility, diffuse the situation and resolve the situation.
When properly equipped, customer service agents not only resolve issues, they create loyalty and turn frustrated customers into die-hard fan clients. Their goal should be to turn lemons into lemonade.
An Alternative Approach
My next call was to Apple. I was still reeling from my call to Compass Bank and even though Apple answered the phone quickly, the agent was still greeted with my hangover of fury and frustration.
But this representative took a very different approach.
Rather than getting defensive, she said, “I am so sorry you are having this problem, this must be extremely frustrating.”
When she said those words, my blood pressure plummeted and I immediately relaxed.
Then she said, “Don’t worry Mr. Fenner, you are in good hands. I will get you taken care of as quickly and efficiently as I can.”
And then she did!
What’s the Lesson?
These two very different approaches explain why Apple is the most valuable company in the world and has throngs of die-hard fans. On the other hand, Compass Bank is just an average bank with average service who fights every day to keep its customers.
Great companies focus on the entire client experience and average companies focus just on selling products. [bctt tweet=”Great companies focus on the entire client experience and average companies focus just on selling products.” username=”markatrisepg”]
How can you shift your focus to the entire client experience? These two experiences highlight the importance of the Issue Resolution Blue Print:
See it as an opportunity. Resolve to utilizing a frustrated customer experience as an opportunity to create a die-hard fan client. This speaks directly to mindset within your organization. Clients do not expect perfection. Things happen. They do expect that you uphold your brand promise. What matters is how you resolve the inevitable challenges that come up.
Apologize. I believe in apologizing when I make a mistake. If your focus is on creating an experience for your clients, as I believe it should be, then any time a client is not having an optimal experience I believe it warrants an apology.
Maurice Schweitzer, in his Harvard Business Review Article “The Organizational Apology” said, “At some point, every company makes a mistake that requires an apology—to an individual, a group of customers, employees, or business partners, or the public at large. And more often than not, companies and their leaders fail to apologize effectively, if at all, which can severely damage their reputations and their relationships with stakeholders.”
An apology THAT something has happened is all that is necessary: Mr. Fenner, I’m sorry that you’re having this problem. That simple statement turned my conversation with Apple around instantly.
Empathize with the client. Consider the impact this situation is having on the client and use empathetic listening.
Consider starting with, “This must be frustrating (or whatever word most closely aligns with the person’s emotions at that time).”
The client will likely say to themselves, “this person understands.”
People trust others who understand and distrust those who do not understand. Protecting and building trust should be a top priority. [bctt tweet=”People trust others who understand and distrust those who do not understand. Protecting and building trust should be a top priority.” username=”markatrisepg”]
Reassure. Transfer the gift of confidence to your client. Saying something like, “The good news is that you are talking to me and we are committed to delighting our clients” will go a long way.
Negotiate a win-win situation. If the situation is complex, use your influence to negotiate a resolution that you can deliver on. I love the question, “What would be an acceptable solution to you?” This question allows you to see the situation through the eyes of the client.
Deliver a Solution. Quickly fix the problem. Meet or exceed their expectations. I would much rather tell a client it will take three weeks for something we think we can fix in two to make sure we meet their expectations rather than promise two weeks and under-deliver.
Confirm Satisfaction. Once the issue is resolved, gain agreement from the client that the issue is indeed resolved.
Follow up. Check back again to ensure the client is satisfied. This could be the next day or in a few days.
Follow up again. Check back a second time a couple of weeks to a month later to ensure satisfaction. This will differentiate you from your competitors and help ensure you convert this client to a die-hard fan.
Keep these tips handy with this free download.
Loyalty Isn’t Luck – it takes intentional plans to create die-hard fans. Commit to raising your standards in how you deal with client issues and watch as your client satisfaction, retention, cross sales and profitability all increase.