conflict | Customer Service Solutions, Inc.

“You’re the Boss” - 2/20/24


Terrence is excellent at what he does.  From a technical standpoint, he knows how to keep the facility clean.  He’s the lead custodian, and he knows that keeping things straight does not necessarily mean keeping things sanitary.  He knows what chemicals to use and not to use, how to Read more

Customer Understanding Leads to Relationship Growth - 2/13/24


We’ve worked with educational organizations at all grade levels over the years.  One special and unique characteristic about the staff who work in these organizations is that there’s a clear intent to know about the students as individuals, to focus on them rather than purely focusing on what’s delivered Read more

Define Customer Service Success Differently - 2/6/24


When I’m watching television, listening to the radio, or listening to a podcast, it’s always interesting when the topic moves to the question:  How can you be a success?  The speakers often discuss the process of becoming a success with the assumption that people believe success is defined by Read more

Care Enough to Give Them a Heads Up - 1/30/24


Nothing bad at all might happen.  Every day in the office could seem like every other day.  Sights and sounds and smells might continue to be the same.  But we have a lot of construction going on around our offices, and the building manager knows the type of work Read more

Be Better than AI Customer Service - 1/23/24


There was a recent CBS Sunday Morning Show story called: How artificial intelligence is revamping customer call centers. The journalist described how artificial intelligence is being used in customer service, and he noted the millions of pieces of information that can be processed in a matter of seconds. There are clear Read more

Recognize the Situation, and Pivot - 1/16/24


The customer has a complaint, or they may have an important question about an order or their account.  You may be talking to them in an emergency room, in the lobby of the government building, on the phone, or in a video conversation.  And in many of these Moments Read more

Sharpen Your Service Delivery - 1/9/24


You work so hard at being responsive and providing high quality information.  You work hard at fixing problems.  But is your delivery…dull? I’m not saying that it has to be exciting, but let’s think of the word “exciting.”  It means that something’s interesting, has energy, is positive.  Just by its Read more

Make Empathy Your Superpower - 1/2/24


I was facilitating a Service Excellence Training class for a Higher Ed client in the Northeast several years back.  As I was walking through the portions of our technique for defusing the angry customer, I talked about empathy.  I talked about accepting responsibility. Immediately, one of the hands in the Read more

Holiday Poem 2023 - 12/26/23


The days are getting longer, The skies are getting brighter. Festivities behind us, And festivities before us.   There’s ups and downs and change coming, And we can’t predict when or where. There’s challenges and joys and opportunities around, Of which you may or may not be aware.   But one thing we know as we look at each Read more

Refresh, Rejuvenate, Refocus - 12/19/23


It’s that time of year.  We’re going 100 miles an hour, and holiday time is upon us.  We not only have all the work to do, but we somehow have less time to do it.  We somehow have other things that are of competing interest, and even though those Read more

Are You in a Position? – 5/2/23

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

Last week’s Tip compared Perspectives and Positions, and we noted that when people have a perspective on a given topic or issue, that’s often useful.  However, when people are more focused on their position, things can get testy.

One topic we didn’t fully address last week was the definition of Position.  Using a military analogy to define position, think about old war movies where soldiers dig a trench.  They’re taking up a position.  They hunker down in the trench, raise up to shoot at the opposition, and then they duck back into the trench.  Trenches don’t move.  The battle can take a long time, and they typically don’t advance until the opposition dies or they retreat.  They’re stuck.

Here are some other, more business-oriented examples of taking a position:

Mine is More Important: I facilitated a community group that was addressing how to best use funds from a national settlement.  Funds were to be used to address a community health issue.  There were over 20 members of the group, and – initially – each of them thought that their cause or solution deserved the majority of the funding.  There were 20 different positions.

Date Conflict: One employee said their draft report would be ready on Thursday.  The other employee told their teammate that it needed to be done on Wednesday.

The Full Refund: An event attendee wanted a full refund for the costs of their tickets to the sporting event that had a long weather delay.  The policy stated that there were no full refunds.

These are three very different examples, but they have one commonality – they all start with people taking a position.

Even though the starting point might be the position, just like in the military analogy, if we maintain those positions, the battle will go on for a long time.  People might fire shots at the other until one person, one position gets beaten down, or the other retreats.

Remember these examples to recognize quickly when someone is taking a position, so you can redirect and – instead – identify common goals.  This could save yourself and the other person from unnecessary arguments, negative emotions, and wasted time.

Recognize when you (or they) are in a position.

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De-escalating Conflict in Customer Service – 4/25/23

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

Conflict can be very healthy and productive.  You and your customer are taking different perspectives, but if you have the same goal and you focus on what you’re trying to accomplish, the different perspectives may lead to an interesting approach or a mutually-beneficial solution.

If the decision was up to us, we might have one solution.  If the decision was up to the customer, they might have a second solution – and neither solution may work for the other.  But maybe there’s a 3rd or 4th or 5th solution – some of which may be workable for both.  Those solutions are determined through Healthy Conflict – leveraging the different perspectives and opinions to get to collective solutions.

Perspectives v. Positions

Where differences exist, conflict is often uncomfortable.  Unfortunately, when people have different perspectives, they can turn into different positions.  And when we start focusing on our position, that’s when our negative passions can rise, and the conversation can become personal.  It can overshadow the main issue or what potential solutions may exist for the situation.

Healthy Conflict v. Combat

So here are some ways to de-escalate conflict so it doesn’t become combat:

Avoid You: Focus on the specific issue, trying to talk less about the people involved and talk more about the process, the policy, the product, the facility.  Avoid the use of the word You to avoid making things personal, and try not to take comments too personally.

Set the Goal: Identify a common goal – even if it’s somewhat general.  It’s easier to determine a common solution if you focus on what you’re trying to accomplish in the end.

Be Self-aware: Be cognizant of tone and body language as you’re sharing the words, as these affect the emotions as much or more than what is actually being said.

Empathize: Get on the same side of the table with them, even literally at times.  Provide empathy, conveying some understanding of their perspective, asking questions and listening rather than interrupting or talking over the other person.

As we’ve often said, it’s much easier and quicker to deal with issues if negative emotion is not involved.

Deescalate conflict in customer service.

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When Conflict is Good – 9/27/16

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


Blake and Mary were in a heated discussion at work. The rest of the people in the meeting were a little uncomfortable, and they squirmed in their chairs. As the dialogue got more quiet, others began to chime-in – everybody adding their own “two cents,” and then there was quiet for about five seconds.

Jennifer – the team leader – then said, “So based on what I’ve heard, the best option for the customer and our growing workload is to go with Option B, but we’re going to delay the launch until February 1st. Is that what we have agreed to and will support?”

Everybody nodded their heads. Blake said “definitely.” Mary said “that works well.”

There was conflict. There was debate. There were multiple people in the room coming in from all different perspectives. It was uncomfortable. It was emotional.

And it was great!

Conflict can be good, especially when a team at work is debating a course of action to take, and they’re trying to make the best decision possible. Conflict is healthy, especially when that “best decision” is the focal point of conversation, and the debate doesn’t attack the individuals. Instead, it’s an important discussion of issues and ideas, of solutions and decisions.

And it’s not boring.

Do you want interesting and collaborative discussions – conversations that end with the best decision possible?

Then embrace healthy conflict. Embrace the right kind of debate that leads to the best solution.

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