FirstDibs by Amor Maclang • Published 24 May 2016
Originally published in Entrepreneur.com.ph. Editor's note: How should business owners orient or train their staff to effectively handle complaints from customers? With proper training and guidance, employees can be converted into effective brand ambassadors. Here are insights.]
— Dear Amor,
I have helped in growing my family’s sari-sari store from the ground up and am now a proud owner of several grocery chains. Recently, I heard about a case where a customer made a complaint regarding an expired product bought from a convenience store. From what I know, the situation wasn’t handled well, and the poor sales person acted defensively, which led to the issue not being resolved.
This got me wondering; how do I instruct my employees to handle such? What do I tell them to do, especially when I’m not there?
Any kind of advice would be greatly appreciated.
— Dear Mrs. Grocer,
First of all, congratulations on successfully branching out and growing your business. To have conquered the odds and to have achieved entrepreneurial expansion is no mean feat, and I laud you for having reached this.
What you need to understand when mapping out contingency plans is you first need to ‘get’ context. This is the best skill you can adapt when communicating with people without being misunderstood. When faced with a business emergency, you need to fully comprehend where the individuals involved are coming from. More importantly, you need to know how you can let the individuals involved know where you’re coming from. Ninety percent of context is why. Not knowing the ‘why’ can mess up most things. There are different issues that inconvenience, outrage, scare, or bother people. And nine times out of 10, the simple reason for why these scenes happen is due to lack of context.
As the business owner, you and the people working for you should be well-versed in this language. Everyone in your camp should be context providers. Everyone has to know facts and important details.
The second aspect you and your employees need to work on is objectivity. Objectivity means you are inside the situation, looking out. This helps in seeing a situation for what it actually is. When we are affected by something, when we are subjective, it tends to be hard for us to look at how other people see us. The number one rule to remaining objective states that the conversation must not be made about you.
You see, it’s hard for people to remain angry when you are objective and empathetic. What happens inside you is you are able to look at the root of the other person’s anxiety and understand the way they’re reacting. One thing I have learned is that everybody talks about love. You should love your work, your brands, your life, etc. Love is indeed a great thing, but the truth is, love has destroyed more brands than hate.
When a business emergency comes to surface, remember to react proactively and objectively, and to contextualize with your values.
Let me give you a formula that works on most customer service situations. You address the issue, do it in an apologetic tone, and assure quality. This proactively contextualizes the situation, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing specifically that.
Here’s a ready statement as an example.
“Hi everybody, service might be running a little slow than usual because we are undermanned. We just want to make sure we attend to you properly.” See how simple it is?
The trick here is to take some of the most common situations that happen and pre-objectify them. It becomes processed as opposed to you making it up in the fly.
Training your people to be ready to face the direst of confrontations makes you more involved in your business and in the service of doing well and doing good. And turning your frontliners into brand ambassadors, or more importantly, making your internal stakeholders capable of safeguarding your brand is nothing short of ideal.
Good luck on your endeavors.
All the best,
Amor Maclang is a risk and crisis mitigation expert, a brand architect and a communications strategist. She is co-founder of GeiserMaclang, an internationally awarded full-service marketing communications company that steers leading names in a diverse field of industries. For questions, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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