Customer Service, Part II: How to Deal With Escalated Customer Disputes
Customer service disagreements and disputes can escalate into more severe confrontations that require a customer service manager’s intervention. It’s a manager’s responsibility to take care to avoid behavior that could result in negative effects such as litigation or diminished productivity. Below are four key conflict management strategies that can make a significant difference in effectively resolving disagreements and disputes with your customers.
1. Establish a connection. Customer service managers should use language that creates an atmosphere of interest and genuine concern. Avoid negative phrases such as, “What’s the problem?” or language that sends a message of disinterest or disrespect. You’ll find greater success by using positive phrases such as:
* Tell me what happened.
* Let’s solve this together.
* I’m sorry that you had a negative experience.
* I’ll be happy to assist you.
2. Acknowledge the customer’s feelings. It is important for managers to acknowledge a person’s perspectives and feelings of stress, anger or fear. This strategy is particularly useful in dealing with irate, irrational or delusional individuals for which rapid conflict resolution is desirable. Best practice phrases include:
* I respect how you feel.
* You are absolutely right to feel that way.
* I’d probably feel the same way if that happened to me.
3. Explore options. Conflict resolution must be a partnership. Rather than assuming what the customer wants, ask. If the customer’s need or want is unrealistic or counter to company regulations, explore and offer additional choices and let customers take ownership in their decisions. When managers explore solution options by asking questions and eliciting customer feedback, the communication process is more likely to move toward a productive course of action.
4. Negotiate a resolution. Once the customer has agreed to a course of action, managers should document the decision choice and provide the customer with documentation of the resolution. This cements the agreement and partnership in the problem-solving process and gives feelings of control back to the customer.
When managers help customers make choices they feel comfortable with, managers have done more than simply to defuse a conflict. They have increased the likelihood of establishing a loyal, long-term client relationship.
Dr. Andrew Edelman has more than 20 years of experience in conflict management, crisis prevention and juvenile justice. He has helped universities, government and business organizations such as Johnson& Johnson and the United Way. For more information, go to: http://www.drandyedelman.com