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”)

Who is Your Harshest Critic?

“I’m not smart enough.”  “Someone else can do it better.”  “I’m just going to fail.” “I am so stupid!” “What made me think I could do this?”

When we tell ourselves we can’t do something, we are usually right.  Not because we are not capable, but because we have convinced ourselves that we can’t.  We are usually our harshest critic.

My daughter was the victim of bullying in middle school.  I was shocked and appalled at the cruel things that some of the girls in her school were saying.  I did not understand how anyone could speak to another person that unkindly.  And then one day, I caught myself “being mean” to me.  I was struggling with a project, had missed a deadline and started berating myself for not being smart enough, driven enough, organized enough, blah, blah, blah.  Of course, once I started the negative self-talk it quickly spiralled out of control.  If only I was taller, younger, older prettier … well, you get the picture.

At that point I realized that I had spent way too much time and energy finding fault with myself and instead needed to start giving myself the pep talks I regularly gave my daughter.  I needed to learn how to shut off that negative voice and replace it with positive messaging.

Negative self-talk is by far a larger contributor to failure than lack of knowledge or experience.  The next time you find yourself doubting yourself, calling yourself down or focusing on the reasons why you think you can’t … stop …. and toot your own horn.

“What we think, we become.” –  Buddha


NOTE: This is a slightly revised re-post of one of my first blogs.  In the last week, the theme of positive self-talk has come up in so many conversations, with so many different people, that I thought I would bring this back up again.  I encourage you to shut that negative voice down, to be kind and gentle to yourself.  Go ahead and work hard to enhance skills, but don’t devalue the skills, the knowledge that  you have right now.

Speak Up and Be Heard – Repost

How many times have you walked out of a meeting frustrated and angry at yourself for not speaking up at the meeting?

I used to be that person.  I would sit in corporate meetings afraid to speak up.  I was worried I would come across as argumentative if I saw an issue from another point of view or that my peers around the table would laugh at my idea.  The problem? Very often someone else at the meeting would come up with a similar idea, comment or question, would verbalize it and get credit for the very thing I had thought of earlier.  In almost all cases, the idea, comment or question I was worried would make me look foolish in front of my peers was worthy of sharing. It was my own lack of trust and respect for the skills and knowledge I possessed that was holding me back from achieving my goals.

How many of you recognize yourself in that scenario? The corporate boardroom table could be replaced with a dinner table or a volunteer committee meeting.  No matter what table you are sitting at, each and every one of you is there for a reason.  You bring life experience, skills and knowledge that hold weight, that are valid and that should be heard.

Take some time to reflect on your values, your experience and your knowledge.  Recognize where you have some knowledge gaps and identify ways to fill those gaps.  And last but definitely not least, learn to trust and respect the skills and knowledge that you possess.

My journey from silent observer to active participant was a journey of baby steps.  I will never forget the deep breath I took before I offered my first unsolicited viewpoint at a meeting, and the feeling of pride and accomplishment after.  There were set backs along the way, but with each new attempt, my confidence grew.  And along the way, I’ve discovered that being wrong isn’t the end of the world.  It’s an opportunity to learn and to grow.  How you handle those “cringe-worthy” moments is more than half the battle, but that’s a whole other article!

Suggestive Selling = Great Service

How many of these phrases have you heard from your service team?

  • I don’t like being pushy, so I don’t make suggestions.
  • The customer knows that they want anyway.  I’ll just be bothering them if I make suggestions.
  • I always ask if they belong to CAA so that I can give them a discount.
  • How am I supposed to know what someone wants?
  • If they already have a reservation, then the sale is done.
  • I’m not in sales.  I’m just a front desk agent (or server)

Those are just some of the phrases I’ve heard from participants in my “Sales as Service” workshop.  In all the sessions I have done, very few people identify the ability to sell as important to their front desk or food and beverage server role.   There are a number of reasons for that.

  1. Many have a negative perception of a salesperson.  When asked what words or phrases come to mind when they hear the word “salesperson”, by far the majority of words or phrases are negative.  Pushy, relentless, commission, annoying, don’t know when to stop, etc., etc., etc.
  2. Many see themselves as being there to take orders and fulfill those orders.
  3. Many have never been taught how to sell.

Creating a strong internal sales team starts with helping your service professionals realize they are also hospitality sales professionals.  Hospitality sales professionals:

  1.  Are always customer focused.  Successful sales professionals are committed to enhancing their customer’s experience.  A sale is not about pushing a service or product; it’s about matching a service or product to the individual customer’s needs, wants and expectations.
  2. Know their customers. They understand that not all customers want, need or expect the same thing.
  3. Know the features and the benefits of the various products or services their company provides.  And because they also know their customers, sales professionals know which product or service will best match their individual customer’s needs, wants or expectations.
  4. Know the selling process and how to identify a sales opportunity. They know that if they omit some steps or don’t move through it a pace the customer is comfortable with, the chance of a lost sale is increased, and just as importantly, the customer may lose out on a wonderful experience.
  5. Understand they are selling an experience, not just a room or a meal at a certain price.  They use words and phrases to create a picture or a feeling.

Sales and service go hand in hand.  Service professionals who also consider themselves sales professionals are good for business.  Their confident ability to suggest options and add-ons  helps the bottom through more closed sales at higher rates or increased customer cheques and higher customer satisfaction scores.


Little Tyrants in the Workplace

Bullies don’t always look like bullies.  One workplace bully I knew looked like the sweetest little lady.  She was tiny. She dressed conservatively and based on appearance alone, was entirely non-threatening.  In her case, appearance was most decidedly deceiving.  When she opened her mouth, the image of sweet lady disappeared entirely.  Her tone of voice and language were strident, threatening, demeaning and intimidating … and just got worse when she was under stress, which seemed to be most of the time.

The people who worked with this little tyrant soon learned to avoid her whenever possible. There were some people that refused to deal with her and sent stronger, more assertive people in their place when they needed something.

You might be wondering what this little tyrant’s boss did to address the behaviour.  He did nothing, nothing at all.  Instead he joined the rest of this team in tip toeing up to and around this little lady.  He allowed the bullying and intimidation to continue.  According to the 2010 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, his response is fairly typical. The survey found that 62% of employers ignore the problem.

Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away and workplace bullying is a big problem.  Workplace bullying is a sure-fire way to bring down moral, create tension and reduce efficiency in the workplace.  As a leader, it’s important to address that negative behaviour and put a stop to it.  Below are some ways to do that:

  1. Be sure you are setting a good example.
  2. If you don’t have an anti-bullying statement, create one and be sure everyone on your team is aware of the statement, as well as the consequences of bullying.
  3. Address the issue immediately.  If an employee reports bullying behaviour by a co-worker, look into it immediately.  If you witness bullying behaviour, step in.
  4. Be respectful to all parties, including the bully.  There is very often an underlying reason for bullying behaviour.  Lack of confidence, feelings of being overwhelmed, etc.  Is there something you can do to help the bully overcome some of those issues?  If there is, try to help.
  5. Talk to your team members about how to communicate assertively.  Some people may not be aware of how “mean” they sound.  They may very well be modelling behaviour they learned from others.  Others need help standing up for themselves.

What about you?  Have you ever had to deal with a workplace bully?  What worked for you?