Have you ever watched a cartoon where two characters are arguing, then one agrees but the second keeps arguing. I had that happen to me when I was in the jewelry business. One Saturday morning a loyal and good customer came in with a complaint about a watch I had recently sold him. He was loaded for bear, sure that I would be difficult. He started in on his complaint, I listened, then I told him I’d refund his money or give him credit for another watch. But he was so wound up (pun intended) that he kept right on talking. Finally, his wife put her hand on his arm and said, “Honey, he said he would refund your money.”
He walked out of there with a different watch and he remained a loyal customer.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was practicing what someone (Stephen Covey?) referred to as, “Listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to argue.”
I was reminded of that when I read an article on T. Scott Gross’s Web site about empowering employees titled First Line of Defense. He points out that the fastest way to cut through to the core of the complaint is to ask, “What will make this right for you?”
He goes on to say:
What is truly amazing is that when the customers are asked what they think is a fair solution, their idea of fairness is often much less expensive than the solution that results from an argument.
This is also one of the best ways to keep a customer as a customer. When my wife and I were first married we spent more than $5000 at a big box retailer. Then, when we had a complaint, the manager told me that if he gave me a refund or a credit he’d have to take a $160 markdown. That was more than 10 years ago. We haven’t been back since. His competitors got my business.
The next time you’re faced with a complaint, ask this simple question. We customers would appreciate it.