Call it human nature, politeness, or political correctness. Maybe it's just easier, but we humans, generally speaking, are kind when dealing with people. When the waiter asks how the meal was, we tend to say it was “good”, or “fine”, or some other polite, vague generality.
It makes for pleasant interactions, but, from a continual improvement standpoint, it does precisely no good.
But there are also those rare, few “unreasonable” customers – those who are not happy with your product or service. They’re not just unhappy; they’re going to let you know what they think.
Sometimes, they have “unreasonable” expectations for your services.
The fact is, any time you hear a customer say, “Why can’t I…?” it should give you reason to pause and ponder “Yeah, why not…?”
It might be that what they think should be, is truly unreasonable. But the very act of thinking through:
can have great value. Just by merely asking the question, your “unreasonable” customer has done you a great service, by providing you with a perspective that you didn’t previously possess. That very perspective could open the door to radical improvements to your service that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought about.
Compare that to the customer who simply tells you the service was “OK.” While it's a whole lot “easier” to hear the OK, you're left with nothing to work on. No meaningful feedback to help you improve. No new perspective on your service.
How you approach an angry, frustrated customer makes all the difference. You really do need to listen. After all, that's why they're venting their frustration on you. But, in reality, the reason your customers get upset is because they have a clear idea of how they think the experience should be, and that's not what they experienced. In other words, the very fact that they are frustrated is an indication that they have valuable feedback about what they expect.
Satisfied customers cannot give you this kind of feedback. Likewise, unhappy customers who don't take the time to let you know can't help you.
Research shows (as cited in Why is Customer Service so Bad, so Often? by Rick Conlow) that up to 96% of dissatisfied customers will never tell the company about their dissatisfaction. And even worse, about the same percent will tell others about their dissatisfaction. That makes a frustrated customer a valuable source of critical feedback that you're not going to get elsewhere.
The trick, of course, is how to take advantage of the fact that this customer is angry and is going to tell you about it, whether you like it or not.
First of all, recognize this situation for what it is – an opportunity. It may not be pleasant, but you’ll have valuable information.
Here's my quick list:
Recognizing that these are difficult conversations, I also have a list of a few things to avoid:
If you’ve done it right, you’ll have some tough questions to ask yourself. Let’s go back to the “it shouldn’t take two weeks to get a new PC.” Obviously, there are reasons why it takes two weeks. But what if we changed the question to “what would it take to deliver new PCs in two days?”
My point here is broader than PC ordering practices. But, you get the point that the “unreasonable” customer gave us reason to question our current practices, and ask “what if” kinds of questions, which can be applied to any aspect of IT services and service delivery.
And you have those unreasonable customers to thank for it.
It takes a lot of courage and a thick skin to turn frustration into feedback. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but the payoff is huge. If you really want to improve, you need the real deal feedback that tells you the truth.
Next time you find yourself on the receiving end of an “unreasonable” customer, be bold and turn it into an opportunity to get valuable feedback.
See why I love unreasonable customers?