Four Customer Dissatisfaction Categories

thumbs-down1Years ago, I was in Prince Edward Island facilitating a customer service workshop. When we started discussing the question “What are some things that make your customers angry?” one of the participants said “Snowstorms and I have no idea what to do when someone yells at me because the roads and airports are closed and they can’t get off the island.”

There are times when our customers are angry and upset because we messed up.  And then there are the times our customers are angry and upset because of something we have absolutely no control over, like the weather.  When it comes to knowing how to manage those moments, start by taking a moment to list as many causes for customer frustration as you can think of.  Next identify which of the four following categories they fall under:

Unrealistic expectations:  Sometimes our customers come to us believing we provide a product or service that we don’t.  Now ask yourself, “Why don’t we offer this product or service?  Is this something we can do?”  If the answer is yes, make it happen.  If the answer is no (and sometimes it is), who does offer this product or service? Then be prepared to send your customer there.

Policies and procedures:  I had a friend walk into a restaurant about 11:00 am.  He ordered the Denver omelet. The server said “We don’t serve breakfast after 10:00.” So my friend flipped to the sandwich section and ordered a Denver sandwich.  No problem with that order!

Take a good, long look at your policies and procedures.  Who are they designed to protect … you or the customer?  Do they make sense to the customer? Chances are they might not, for the simply reason your customer doesn’t understand all the ins and outs of running your business. So have some fun or be prepared to offer an alternative.  I imagine my friend would have shared the above story from a whole different perspective if the server had said something like “We don’t serve from our breakfast menu after 10:00 am, so how about I ask the cook to make you a Denver sandwich, with the bread on the side?”

Human error: This list could get long.  Focus on the errors that happen most often or have the most significant impact on the overall customer experience. Ask yourself “Why are they happening and what can we do to prevent it.” Then take action.

External factors:  There are some external factors that come at you out of the blue.  Your customer may have had a fight before leaving home for the day or had terrible, horrible, very bad day at work or just received some difficult news.  There are some external factors you can pretty much count on.  Plan for those.  For example, if you run a business in PEI, chances are pretty good that at some point in any given year, bad weather will hit, roads and airports will be closed and customers will be stranded.  Work with your team to recognize the frustration and teach them how to respond with empathy. What can you do to help them pass the time?  Perhaps some games or a quiet room for them to read or get caught up on other work.  Who will keep them up-to-date on travel updates?

When you and  your team view complaints positively, instead of looking at them as a negative, they provide clues on how to improve the service you and your company provide. Changing the focus from a negative to a positive helps you be in the right mind set to successfully manage those moments when they arise.

(Excerpt from “Customer Service from the Inside Out”)

When your nose is to the grindstone, all you see is the grindstone.

It’s too easy to get caught up on all the things we need to do or all the things making us unhappy.  But when we focus only on work or only on the negative, we miss making connections with the people around us.  We miss seeing new opportunities.  So look up. Look into someone eyes.  Start a conversation.  Enjoy a moment of silence. Take time to reflect and refocus.  You’ll be glad you did.

Make the most of this long weekend … rain or shine!

You Look Great … for Your Age

Bridge and the abyssYes, it’s true. I have reached that magical age where I am told I look great … for my age. I’m not sure that’s a compliment!  Compliment or not, that phrase brought to mind all the many judgments and assumptions we make about people based on age.

Here’s what I think about this whole generational divide. We make it bigger than it really is. Many of us forget that at one point, it was our generation that was going to ruin the world or save it, depending on which side of that divide a person was sitting on.

I was reading an article the other day on this very topic and the author said something along the lines of “as we get older, our adventure window starts to close and we view those with their windows wide open as suspect.”  Millennials don’t have the years of experience we have. Many have wide open adventure windows. They haven’t learned to back away from opportunity because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”  That’s a good thing, but slightly off putting for those of us who have.

Another author said “Why don’t we just view everyone as a person first?”  A great question! When we lump people into a category, we assume everyone in that category views the world around them the exact same way. That has never been true for any generation. In every generation, there are are leaders and followers. There are people who push boundaries and those who prefer to live well within the boundaries of the current norm.  It is the people who push, who question and who perhaps sometimes demand instead of ask, that create change.

We can all learn from each other.  And for those of us who’ve been around a little longer, I believe we have the obligation to create environments where open dialogue happens. Let’s not expect the young and the brash to already know the lessons it took us years to learn.

Let’s crack our adventure window open just a little wider and let’s not take those back-handed compliments personally.  Be patient with the eye-rolling and sometimes condescending attitudes the younger folks give us. After all, someday they will be on the receiving end of them and wondering just how quickly those darn kids are going to destroy all the good they created!

Are You and Your Customers on the Same Wavelength?

Friendly young businessman showing ok signBain & Company surveyed 362 companies.  They spoke to people within the companies and asked them “How often do you deliver superior customer service?”  The answer: they believed they delivered superior customer service 80% of the time.  Unfortunately, when customers were asked “How often do you receive excellent customer service”, their response was only 8% of the time!  That’s a huge disconnect and in the end, it’s the customer’s perception that matters.

One potential reason for this disconnect is that as business owners, managers and service suppliers, we are faced with the daunting and challenging task of hiring, training, scheduling, coaching, mentoring, ordering, reporting… the list goes on and on.  Supplies are late, weather is bad, someone calls in sick and yet, somehow, in spite of all the challenges, the business is open and customers are coming in the door.  We give ourselves a lot of credit for the challenges we overcome on a regular basis.

Go ahead, pat yourself on the back.  After all someone has to! Just don’t expect your customers to do so. They’ll pat you on the back, give you figurative high fives, maybe even the occasional real one, if and when their expectations are consistently met and exceeded.

From the customer’s perspective, you are there to serve them and they’re not wrong. They chose your business to meet a need and they expect it to be met, regardless of the logistical challenges behind it.

Are you too Smart for Your Own Good?

Young cute professor woman gesturing holding chalkA long time ago, people believed the sun revolved around the earth and that bloodletting was an effective way to treat a variety of ailments.  We now know none of those previous ‘truths’ are true.

Decisions are made based on what we know at the time.  Sometimes, poor decisions are made when all the facts or factors are not known. Sometimes, the opposite is true: For example:

  • When we know we’re not good enough or smart enough or rich enough or poor enough, we give up before we start.
  • Compassion dies and conflict flourishes when we use our knowledge to judge others who have chosen to live or act differently than what we know (believe) to be right.
  • When we know young people are lazy and old people have lost their usefulness, we lose the opportunity to see our world from a new perspective and perhaps, in the process, gain new insight and new ideas.

Many times, what we ‘know’ is nothing more than misconceptions, current societal expectations or even other’s truths we have taken on as our own. Just because something didn’t work once, doesn’t mean it will never work again. Just because it didn’t work for someone else, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. It takes courage to put aside what we know and ask:

  • Is that really true?
  • Is there a better way?

Knowledge is fluid.  Recognize, value and respect the knowledge, experience and wisdom you have, but don’t stop pushing against boundaries of that knowledge.

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This is a revised version of a blog posted way back in 2013.  I am working with a group of very dedicated people and as we continue to grow and improve, all of us have, at times, had to be reminded to open our minds and be willing to put aside what we know.