A customer service hack to win the day

Some years ago, I attended an in-house training course on customer service principles named Customer Experience Owner (CEO). It was required training for new employees to teach client relationship techniques during conflict, negotiation, and service delivery. The company produced customized commercial print pieces and customer service was essential for maintaining relationships and getting through the design, proof, and production processes. The instructor was a member of the customer service team who brought meaning to the principles in the material by using real-world examples from her career.

One of the techniques from the class stuck with me well after the class ended. I’ve used it multiple times when working on customer requests through the years. I’ve passed the wisdom along to my kids during teachable moments. It’s so simple, and yet so powerful. 

I can’t do (that request), but I can do (this solution)

The concept is both bold and balanced. When faced with a request that you are unable to deliver, first acknowledge what you’ve been asked to do. 

  • (Be Bold!) Then calmly state why you are unable to complete the request.  
  • (Be Balanced!) Immediately list some alternatives that you can provide as a solution. 

I’m not saying this approach always works. It may not. But it does tend to diffuse elevated emotions and often leads to an amicable ending. Here’s why. 

  1. It shows you are listening and not closed to a single outcome
  2. It shows you are invested in finding a solution for a path forward
  3. It shows you are engaged with the customers’ needs
  4. It shows that your shared interests are often much bigger than your stated positions
  5. It sets a tone of partnership

Conflict resolution isn’t easy. The bet with this approach is the other side will also respectfully participate in finding an acceptable path forward. That’s the win-win. 

A big shout-out to Sandra for sharing her talents with those of us in the class. You made a difference. 

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/7XiHcy – Positions Vs. Interests by Jonny Goldstein