issue resolution

Should you tell the customer? The Company’s Dilemma - 4/23/19


I have a lot of clients that struggle with this question, both at a company/strategic level as well as an individual representative level. When there is an issue that is going to happen, should you tell the customer? This week we’re going to address the question at the Read more

Customer for Life – The Final Step - 4/16/19


Two weeks ago, we addressed the Third Step of keeping a Customer for Life: Address what will keep them. Now, we’re sharing the Fourth and Final Step. To have a Customer for Life, you have to grow your relationship with them. While the 3rd step is the Read more

Use the Actions of Empathy - 4/9/19


I firmly believe that the most important personal trait of someone in customer service is empathy. If empathy is understanding the other person, then it’s very difficult to truly serve someone that you don’t understand. Particularly when they’re upset or irate, being empathetic and getting them to Read more

Customer for Life – The Third Step - 4/2/19


Two weeks ago, we addressed the Second Step of keeping a Customer for Life: Never let a relationship go stale – keep the communication going. Now, we’re sharing the Third Step. To have a customer for life, you have to address what will keep them. Read more

Facial Recognition is the Future of Customer Service - 3/26/19


According to a recent New York Times article, facial recognition is the future of retail customer service. A trend in technology for retail businesses is to utilize facial recognition technology in order to better know who is entering your business. The idea is that if somebody within Read more

Customer for Life – The Second Step - 3/19/19


Two weeks ago, we shared a Customer Service Tip on how to get (and keep!) a Customer for Life. We addressed the First Step, Knowing what you need to know about the other person. Now, we’re sharing the Second Step. To develop a relationship with anyone, there has to Read more

Employee Runs for a Dog Run - 3/12/19


I was never a Boy Scout. I mean in the literal sense, but also somewhat in the figurative sense, but I digress. After years of telling myself that I needed something to help my dog get exercise outside without worrying about him trying to dig under a fence and Read more

Customer for Life – The First Step - 3/5/19


This should be the goal, right? That our clients today will be our clients tomorrow and well into the future. That their loyalty grows, their business with us grows, their referrals grow, and it is all part of a relationship that grows and develops over time. But what’s the Read more

Retrain Your Brain - 2/26/19


Admit it. You thought about it. You thought: Why in the world did the customer try to assemble that before reading the instructions? Why would they drive all the way down here instead of just checking the website? Why would they go through the drive-thru when they can deposit using Read more

Look Up, or Look Out! - 2/19/19


The clerk called out “next in line!”, and Frannie went to the counter. “Can I have your name?,” the employee asked, but she stared at her computer screen while asking. Frannie stated her name, the time of her appointment, and noted the reason for the appointment. Staring at the screen, Read more

Of Ross, Unagi, and the Attacking Customer – 6/19/18

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment


If you’ve ever watched the TV sitcom called Friends, you may remember that one of the characters was named Ross. In one episode, he is trying to educate some of his female friends (who just took a self-defense course) on a concept he calls Unagi. Basically, to Ross, this is a concept that would help him anticipate when he was about to be attacked. Once attacked, then he could use his karate. Of course, Ross got his terms confused; he should have said Zanshin; instead he used Unagi – a Japanese word for freshwater eel.

Ross also wasn’t particularly good at Unagi or karate, as later in the episode his Friends “attacked” him when his Unagi failed, and they got him in a submission hold.

In the world of customer service, it would be great if we had Unagi. It would be great if we had some kind of a radar that could anticipate that customer who is going to attack us or bully us into getting what they want.

Unfortunately, for the most part, Unagi does not exist. However, these are 3 different tactics to consider when you’re faced with a customer potentially trying to bully his way to a particular outcome:

Restrain – Hold back on the urge to verbally fight back with personal attacks against the customer, blaming them for things that have happened in the situation. Once we heighten our emotional level and try to match theirs, usually we’re going to end up having a situation get even worse. Restrain a little bit instead of reacting with defensiveness and our own personal feelings.

Redirect – Consider ways to get the conversation away from the personal attack and away from their solutions to focus more on a scenario where you are redirecting the conversation by asking questions. You’re trying to learn details. You’re trying to understand specifics, and all the while by asking your questions you’re not only getting the conversation to focus on what you want to focus on, but you’re also taking control of the conversation.

Recuse – At some point, the conversation gets too heated; it’s too personal; you may need to recuse yourself from the conversation. This does not mean to ignore the customer and the issue. What it does mean is that sometimes it’s best to bring in a co-worker, bring in a supervisor, bring in somebody else and recuse yourself from the situation. Oftentimes that mere pause for the handoff can deescalate the emotions. By bringing in someone else, it gets the focus off of you and the dynamics with you and the customer. Sometimes the customer feels they’re making progress through a resolution process by viewing the next person (especially if you position the handoff this way) as a key next step in the process.

Why you might not have Unagi, find ways to restrain, redirect, and – if necessary – recuse yourself when you’re dealing with the attacking customer.

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When it’s – Truly – Not Your Fault – 6/12/18

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Jennie was under fire. She was the first line of defense – the front-line worker in the software firm. She didn’t make the software. She didn’t cause it to have errors. She wasn’t the one apparently avoiding the biggest customer’s calls.

Yet, here she was – dealing with the issue, the anger, the emotion of the customer, and it was truly NOT her fault.

This is when you could have one of a number of urges – you can argue, you can ameliorate (an underrated word!), you can obfuscate (nice SAT word!), you can empathize, or you can throw your co-worker or company “under the bus.”

This is the time to hold back on that last urge – don’t take down a co-worker to take down the customer’s emotion. This is when that phrase “you have to be the bigger person” comes into play. The best response to a customer situation is not always what we’d prefer to do. The best response is often not the easiest. The best response isn’t always painless in the short-term.

The best response – when it’s truly not your fault – starts before you get into the technique, the wording, the engagement with the customer. The best response starts before you respond to them – it starts with how you decide to handle yourself.

It’s a matter of having the conscious thought that “It’s not about me. Let me do what’s best for the customer and the company. Let me focus on others – not focusing on who’s to blame (or not to blame, in this case).”

It’s a mindset and a realization that – yes – you have to be the bigger person.

Thanks for what you do as a customer service representative of your organization.

And thanks for what you don’t do – namely throwing your co-worker “under the bus.”

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What to do DURING a Bad Experience – 5/15/18

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After providing the final research report to a client recently, even though the report provided tremendous detail and a 10-page Executive Summary, the client asked that I cull down the key takeaways to a few bullet points. As I glanced back through the report, there was one exceptionally interesting finding.

As background, this research was for an event that takes place annually. One of our approaches to analysis is to look at the characteristics of last year’s respondents and their individual responses to the survey, then identify which of those attributes strongly correlated to renewal and attendance at this year’s event.

One of the strongest factors impacting renewal to this year’s event was Event-related Communications. Last year’s event was negatively impacted by the weather, and it was interesting that many of the respondents felt better about the overall experience if they felt better about Event-related Communications, and they felt worse about the overall experience if they were not satisfied with the Event-related Communications.

Essentially, when an organization has challenges, a particular event as issues, a product or service has poor quality or lacks timeliness, the importance of effective communication ramps up dramatically.

When things are going bad, it’s better to overcommunicate than under communicate. It’s better to be more proactive and provide information above and beyond about what the issues are, what the resolutions may be, and what timeframes are expected.

It’s not just a good thing to keep customers in the loop, but when significant issues arise, those communications are often the difference between a renewal and a cancellation, the difference between keeping a customer and sending them to a competitor, the difference between a repurchase and lost business.

When you look at your ongoing customer Touch Point Strategies, make sure that there are specific strategies in place that enhance customer communications when the experience goes bad.

Know what to do during a bad experience.

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