The Customer Confidential Podcast
When a business interaction goes wrong, frustration is a natural response. Consider a contractor who’s scheduled to repair a customer’s home and then doesn’t communicate with their client or show up when expected. What if it keeps happening? The customer, of course, has a right to share their frustration and get a solution.
What happens next, according to Bryan Rutberg, founder and principal of 3C Communications, can make or break the relationship. Bryan, who helps people communicate better in order to improve customer satisfaction, emphasizes empathetic and compassionate communication with frustrated customers—but within reason.
“’I understand that you're upset; I'd be upset too,’" is an effective response, Bryan says. Words like these demonstrate understanding.
He even recommends going further: Advocating for your customers sometimes means taking their side.
“It's incumbent upon individual workers who bring care for their customer into the relationship to bring principles of, ‘I love this customer. I want them to accomplish their mission with the benefit of my product or solution. That means I have to fight for them,’” Bryan explains.
Frustrated customers need clear and authentic engagement, Bryan says, not canned responses.
“Nothing drives me quite as crazy as when someone's going through their script and it's clear that's what they're doing,” Bryan states.
But true authenticity also means acknowledging that some customer requests are out of reach. Maybe the unresponsive contractor is short-staffed and does not bring on more talent fast enough. Or maybe they face unexpected supply chain problems. That’s when it becomes essential to set reasonable, achievable expectations.
“If we are going to serve our customer, client base, and stakeholders the way we wish to, we need to make some bets,” Bryan says. “That means new solutions for new problems, technologies, and coming up with the right way to talk about the businesses we run that keep our customers happy.”
In this episode, Bryan and I discuss how to advocate for customers, how to compassionately handle unrealistic consumer requests, and how to build a transparent workplace culture.
In the following excerpt, we discuss how to advocate for a customer with a request that extends beyond a company’s or organization’s current abilities.
Rob: Bryan, let’s pretend I’m your organizational representative. “Bryan, what you're asking for is outside of our norm. I have to request special resources and get permission to deliver that. Can you help me make the case for those resources?"
Bryan: I might be tempted to phrase it slightly differently. “What you're asking for is outside of the norm. I'd like to understand the motivator behind your request. Because if we heard this a lot, I have faith we’d have a better answer. Let's figure out if there's an answer here.”
When I worked with a client near the Bay area and their global customer success team, we’d talk about their escape valve: “We have a submission portal for issues that come up where you find you are an outlier, as opposed to in the middle of the bell curve of our customers’ needs.” Or: “We will take recommendations for additional functionality or capability. Let's see if we don’t have other customers who feel the same way and if we can’t turn this into a priority for the folks who are writing the code.”
Rob: Oh, I see. You're turning this to more of a positive tone and less of, “I'm your advocate.”
Bryan: Yes, it's a collaborative answer.
It’s about positivity. And seeing a glass as half full.
Download Bryan’s free ebook, Love & Profit: 10 Ways to Transform Customers into Lustomers, here.