Monday, July 23, 2012

The Library Experience: Embrace Resistance

You can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.
-Variation on Abraham Lincoln

I always loved this saying because of its ring of truth.  Try as we might, not every customer is always pleased and how we handle the situation can determine if that customer will be visiting again.  Principle #4 of The Starbucks Experience, by Joseph Michelli, explains the importance of embracing those dissenters and effectively listening to their concerns.

It's natural to want to rebut complaints and accusations made against you or your organization, but doing so will almost guarantee a lost customer.  Most of the time, people just want their complaints to be heard and know that someone actually cares.  Building on the first three principles, Embracing Resistance means using your welcoming strategies to get the customer to open up, listening to the details, and then surprising them with your compassion.  Let's break this down:

If you remember from the very first principle, Make it Your Own, Be Welcoming is the first step to turning around customer service.  Applied to the upset customer, be welcoming means having an open stance and showing him/her that you care about their individual situation.  We often note that the only people who take the time to comment are the complainers.  While I don't think that is the case, it is notable to mention that most people who do make negative comments are motivated by high emotions which make these comments longer (and more memorable) than the positive feedback we receive.  Because it often takes a high emotional level to induce negative feedback, this means there could be other dissatisfied, low-emotional, customers who have not expressed themselves.  Your welcoming and open stance will put the high emotional  customer at ease and will allow a low-emotional customer to open up about their problem before it escalates.

Principle #2, Everything Matters, means it is all in the details.  Actively listening will provide you with essential details on how to improve a customer service situation.  But listening is very difficult!  Have a partner make a complaint to you and then write down all the things running through your mind.  Most likely, you were thinking of ways to respond before he/she had finished.  Active listening means fully understanding the complaint, details and all.  I guarantee that your response will be better crafted after having understood the complaint rather than trying to formulate a response as the customer is speaking.

Customer's expect a wrong to be righted - surprising them with your compassion and empathy will solidify their loyalty.  The Surprise and Delight principle means giving the customer something they would not expect. That surprise can be something as simple as compassion.  You'd be surprised at how tolerant people are of errors when you show them you are doing everything you can to make it right again. Having listened to the customer's full complaint and acknowledging their concern, you can begin to look at this as an opportunity to gain a customer for life.

With these principles in mind, I challenge you to actively engage and listen to your customer.  By thinking of each complaint as an opportunity to grow and change, you may feel  more inclined to embrace the criticism and less likely to rebut the complaint.

To be continued with Principle #5: Leave Your Mark . . .

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