Last week I blogged about Social Media assassins and how to diffuse the situation when your online reputation is at stake. I had a lot of people comment back to me saying, “But what about those that you just can’t please? So now we should make everyone a VIP?” In a sense, yes. It’s just a matter of how you define a VIP. When conflict arises, I agree it’s hard to keep your cool. Your customer’s angry so naturally the exchange becomes volatile. They run to the first online ratings site they can find. How do you stop the one’s you just can’t please?
Stellar customer service and expert conflict resolution are cut from the same cloth. Since my earliest days in the car business, everyone would always defer to me when we had a “heat” customer. When it came time to collect money, I was also the gal who got the job. I became the Small Claims Queen. I was such a fixture in the greater Los Angeles Court system that I was on a first-name basis with many judges and bailiffs! My track record: 100%. I never lost a case, ever.
My trick was to stay calm and never take it personal. I had a guy once who had purchased $3,000 in parts from us and refused to pay. As a gesture to end the dispute, we offered to knock the balance due down to our cost. He still didn’t pay, so off to Small Claims we went. It was clear from the minute I got there that it wasn’t going to be easy. He was very angry….“How dare I owe you money!”. He refused to discuss a resolution so we stood in front of the judge. She took no time with her verdict: she ordered him to pay the $3,000. He was so mad that the veins were bulging on his forehead. I had to wait a few minutes to make sure he’d left the building before I made my way to my car.
After the standard 30-day waiting period, of course no money showed up. I made arrangements with the Sheriff’s office to hire a “keeper”. That’s where the Marshall stands at the business (with a gun!) and waits for money to come in–by mail, in person or online. It only took a few hours of that and he coughed up the entire balance due. If it had happened today, and he tried to slam us online, we would’ve had so many positive reviews it would have been a blip on the screen.
In the stores I managed over the years, we were always known for our excellent customer service. We led our team with a very specific system that incorporated resolving even the most serious conflicts. I learned from people like Carl Sewell, my idol. I also observed and learned from my experiences as a Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus customer. We didn’t reinvent the wheel. We incorporated others’ strategies then put our own signature on it.
When conflict arises, it’s always about being heard. That’s why people take it online after they’re not satisfied. Sites like Yelp know that letting someone vent always produces a positive affect. The steam gets let out of the pressure cooker when we’re allowed to tell our side of the story. Even though Social networks have amplified the volume, if you can establish and promote a culture of listening to their side, you’ll find the customer has much less need to tell it to someone else.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” With a proven system in place to communicate your organization’s good character and great service, you resolve nearly every issue that comes along. Without it, prepare to see more bulging veins popping out of people’s foreheads…and your online ratings sink into oblivion.