Customers, Confrontation and Conflict

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Disclaimer : While what I wrote here came from my notes, the contents are generally come from learning literature and materials that I have studied.

Inspirational Quote : “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

I spent most of my “early” career (7 years of them) in the Operational Center, which you can call as “Backline Team” – with no or little exposure of direct end-Customer contact. When I joined this current company, suddenly there is a (mandatory) requirement to have Customer-facing skill as well as Customer Satisfaction mentality. It certainly took a while to change the mindset, attitude, the way you speak, the words you use, and most importantly the goal you have in mind.

In this note, I’d like to share what I have learned from a study titled “Customers, Confrontation and Conflict”. It essentially teaches you on how to deal with Customers when you are in less-than-desirable situation-but-very-common, a.k.a Conflict and Confrontation situations. In fact, in every complaint, there is a big opportunity for you to get profit in it – by providing what we use to call “Service Excellence”. Successfully executing this may cause a big positive impression on the Customers.

Let’s begin :

1. First thing first, try to understand what is/are Customer’s Trigger Points, or sometimes called “Hot Buttons!” There are certain things that are said or written, that will most likely trigger or enhance Customer’s anxiety, burst of anger and ignite major disappointment. For example, when you are supporting Customer face-to-face, your speaking tone and body/facial expressions can play major role which may cause big concerns with Customer.

2. There is always a reason why you are Customer are in a state of Conflict, or Confrontational situations. It’s very important you first try to understand the main reason(s) behind it. Some reasons which may trigger conflict :

a. Your product is not as advertised
b. Your product appears to be low quality : shoddy and cheap
c. Unprofessional packaging : impression of unpolished
d. Customer is given substitute product without their consent/confirmation
e. There are missing components
f. Damaged product
g. Defective, either caused by human error or production issue

3.  Third point is Attitude. Take a brief introspection and tell yourself that you are there because you want to help people with their problems. Show empathy and competence (in dealing with the issue). Competence means that you are demonstrating a strong desire to correct, and that you are capable to resolve it. Equally important is to show great business sense in handling angry/unhappy Customers.

Do not scold the Customer (watch the tone, and be polite). And do not make the Customer feel abandoned. Show that you care and let Customer understands that you are there to help them resolve the issue that they have. Please remember that, while actively listening to Customer’s complaint does help, it’s what you do to follow through that scores real points with confrontational Customers.

4. Last but not least, be proactive. As part of the “Service Excellence” and to show that you care : actively contact the customer, provide plenty of information for alternatives or choices if appropriate. And then offer your continued service, once the matter is resolved.

To summarize : Dealing with critical situations with Customers, conflict and confrontation is part of our Customer-facing role. Always remember that there is always an opportunity to turn this unfortunate situation into profit or advantage. Providing Service Excellence will go a long way with your Customers, and most likely cause big positive impression in their minds.

Hope this helps. Let me know your thoughts/comments.

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