We all know the old adage ‘the customer is always right’ and in all honesty we’ve all questioned the truth in that statement at least once in our lives, but how do we ensure that we stay in control when that customer problem becomes a problem customer? Bill Pollock, President, Strategies for Growth has some suggestions.
Not all customers are “problems”, but as long as their equipment is down, they are experiencing a “problem”. In fact, most customers realize that their equipment will go down from time to time, and most interpret this as nothing more than an inconvenient “fact of life”.
However, particularly when the customer feels they have not received good customer service and support in the past, or if the machine has undergone a succession of similar types of failures one after the other, there is an increasing chance that even a “good customer” can turn into a “problem customer”.
Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s someone else’s fault within the organisation, and sometimes it’s the customer’s fault – however, when all is said and done, it will be the field technician who is the one who will have to deal with it.
Typically, the best way to distinguish between a “customer problem” and a “problem customer “is to observe the way in which the customer is handling the situation.
For example, if the customer remains cool, calm, and collected throughout all of its discussions with you regarding a specific service event – regardless of how many discussions you are forced to have – then, you may consider the problem to be more equipment-focused then customer-focused.
We’ve all heard the expression: “The customer is always right”. Well, that is not always true…
We’ve all heard the expression, “The customer is always right”. Well, that is not always true.
The general rule of thumb is, “The more ‘right’ the customer is, the more likely you are to be dealing with a ‘customer problem’; however, the less ‘right’ the customer is, the more likely you are to be dealing with a ‘problem customer’”.
In some situations, it may not be entirely clear which is the case. The one thing that is clear, however, is that in either case you will still need to treat the customer in exactly the same way – that is, assuming they are “right”, and treating them accordingly.
However, dealing with an irate customer takes the situation to an entirely new level! We’ve all had them – irate customers! And, the bad news is, we will continue to have them for the duration!
However, there are two ways in which to experience irate customers; either directly as result of a specific event or situation (i.e., a failure in the middle of a key production run, a repeat failure, a self-inflicted failure, or any other number of product- and/or time-related reasons), or because we have made them irate (i.e., treated them poorly, didn’t respond quickly enough, looked like we weren’t paying attention to them, etc).
In most cases, the former types of situations are largely out of our control; however in virtually every case, the latter are entirely preventable. Of course, the best way to avoid having to deal with an irate customer is to do everything in our power to accommodate them – within reason!
But, that does not always work and, accordingly, there will generally be times when we will need to do some immediate – and intense – “damage
The main focus of any damage control on the part of the field technician would be primarily to:
- Address the situation directly, and attempt to resolve it quickly, completely and satisfactorily;
- Explain the reality of the situation objectively and calmly to the customer;
- Provide any relevant data or documentation that proves your case, if requested;
- Be prepared to correct any misinformation or misperceptions on the customer’s part to avoid any further miscommunication; and
- Explain concisely and accurately why a specific situation may have occurred, what positive actions you will be taking to correct it, and when they could reasonably expect the problem to be resolved to their satisfaction.
In the services profession, you will probably always be running into some customers who, for one reason or another, simply like to be “irate”. This is a fact of business life, and you should be prepared to deal with it as best you can.
However, by continually embracing and utilising a “Listen, Observe, Think, Speak” (i.e., LOTS) approach in all of your customer interactions, you can successfully reduce these types of instances in most cases.