Turn around complaints

Posted on September 28, 2011

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I actually read this piece in a management magazine and thought I would share. It works if you are in a service industry, delivering an actual product or managing a project:

Let them rant.
Don’t interrupt, don’t glower and don’t judge, however  wrong or rude they are. Instead, memorise every details of their grievance, encouraging them with open body, language, a neutral expression and lot’s of “I’m interested” noises.

Say sorry. If you are in the wrong, apologise personally and sincerely. If you don’t feel responsible (i.e their ever shifting priorities made delivering on time impossible) apologise for the situation. Now it is time to save your sinking client relationship, not to save face.
Ask meaningful questions.They will help you clarify what went wrong and show you are serious about finding a solution. summarise their complaint back to them.
Be honest. Think carefully about what you can and can’t deliver. A realistic solution is better than a broken promise.
Empathise. Identify with their complaint on an emotional level ( “I know how frustrating this must be for you”). Once they see you as a fellow human, they will be willing to cooperate.
Don’t pass them on. They may not have been your problem originally, but they are now. Tell them exactly what steps you will take personally to resolve their issue and by when.
Join forces. Instead of contradicting the complainer with defense language (“no but”), be positive. Start each of your responses with “yes, and…” and watch cooperation conquer.
Stay calm. Count to five before speaking, draft and redraft and before you hit send, breathe. One angry person is quite enough.
Delve deeper. Don’t be tempted by quick fixes (i.e discount their next order and move on). Most complaints are products of a more serious problem (i.e an inefficient pipeline). Keep digging until you find the root of the complaint, then tackle it.
Be Thankful. Complaints are opportunities to improve, innovate and win over clients for life.
The Mind Gym: Relationshipshttp://www.themindgym.com/books

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