When customers think highly of your company, your products, your service, life is grand.
But they don’t always. Misunderstandings or product errors can challenge supplier/ client relationships. Even high caliber clients sometimes differ with you. Disagreements are NO fun, for any reason.
These 10 words (3 + 4 + 3) will help you navigate a customer disagreement and emerge on the other side of the discomfort with your professional relationship intact.
- Use the first three as a set,
- have your dissenter choose one of the next four,
- use the final three together.
Tell me more.
The soft-spoken use of these three words can largely disarm your detractor or objector.
“Tell me more” invites them to elaborate, clarify, or say the last 10% if they were holding back. It conveys that you want to know what’s going on so you can do something about it.
Whenever you can, pick up the phone and call them before they call in and get passed up the authority line to you. You’ll multiply the chances of preserving your client/ provider relationship.
Here’s what “tell me more” does for you:
- It lets you hear your customer in detail so you know you’re hearing things right, rather than putting you on the defensive as they might expect —or hope.
- It lets you hear the real concern (their first pass may have been rehearsed or scripted so they say things right).
- It buys you time, if you need it, to craft and soften your first response.
Have them clarify,
choosing one of these four words
to help you discern how prevalent the concern, how pressing the need:
4) Always – Is this always true? Does it happen every time?
3) Generally – Is this the norm? Are there exceptions?
2) Sometimes – Does this occur occasionally? What conditions are true when this happens?
1) Once – Is this an isolated instance, the only matter on which we differ?
Knowing the frequency or scope of the issue helps you measure its importance and urgency. (Important and urgent are not synonyms).
Once you have an accurate grasp of the issue, you’re ready for the last three words of the ten. You’ve earned the right to be heard. You know the issue and its severity. Thanks to “tell me more”, you’ve had time to fully understand and craft a careful, appropriate response.
If I may —
“If I may, here’s what I suggest…”
- Is an apology in order – from you?
- What’s the best course of action? “What would make you happy? I’ll come as close as I can.”
- Do we need a compromise? “Will you meet me somewhere in the middle?”
- Is your detractor suggesting a solution? Remember “Tell me more!”
- Do you need to thank them for speaking forthrightly and with respect, then clarify your position or company policy?
- Will a gift certificate or credit convince them you’re serious about keeping your client/ supplier relationship strong?
Tell me more.
If I may.
Your skill and diplomacy with these ten words should spark discussion, problem-solving, understanding, and good will. If not, (not all disagreements are resolvable) at least you will both know you took the time to hear them and understand their view.
Customer and client loyalty will remain high, respect for you will increase, and
you’ll move forward, better for having taken the time to talk things through.