Nobody likes to disagree. True enough. No one likes to fight, except maybe the ladies on the Real Housewives.
It’s scary (who knows what will happen). It’s frustrating (typically it’s not your fault). And, time consuming (replaying the incident over and over, wondering what would make it different.) Most of us will do anything to avoid a disagreement like tell a white lie or ultimately give in. Problem is, that is only a temporary fix. The issue might be rsolved for now, but not for good.
Entrepreneurs, especially solo entrepreneurs, really struggle with speaking up to clients. In a recent survey 47% of small business owners asked said they wouldn’t try to work through a tough issue.
Why not? Fear of consequences like not being liked or losing business. Truth is, you’ll get a better grasp on your business and your emotional life if you learn how to manage conflict positively.
You already have the skills. You talk to friends and clients, right? Check. You listen closely, right? You know how to problem-solve and present options, right? You’re up for discussing alternatives. Check. OK, then you’re good. You have what it takes to be powerful around disagreement.
Over the next few weeks I’ll share more articles on how to be powerful and generous by becoming skilled at conflict. For now, have a look at changing your mindset. Below are a three negative myths about dealing with customer complaints. Maybe this applies to you. If so, it’s time to change. Holding onto these negative beliefs or thoughts is preventing you from growing your business and yourself.
Myth #1 Entrepreneurs shouldn’t fight with customers
Gosh, I hear that all the time. The customer is always right. Eh, no. Sometimes the customer is misinformed, wrong or just plain crazy. And, while it’s your job to please your customer, it isn’t always possible. That leads to disagreement and conflict (internally and with your client). I define conflict as ‘two or more thoughts, ideas or things in opposition’. Which is very broad but makes sense when you think about things like the Super Bowl or elections, which are recognized, organized conflicts.
Here’s a news flash- Conflict is normal, people. It really is inevitable, just like the sunrise, and part of your daily life, whether you realize it or not. When conflicts are small like getting up with the alarm or letting a customer change an order, it’s not a big deal. We handle it. When they are bigger or personal, that’s when it gets dicey. You want to do the right thing, but who knows what that is, right?
First thing to do is understand: conflict happens. Just like a pimple, they look bad, feel worse and seem to exist to mess things up. Most people fall into blaming themselves or others as a default when mistakes happen. Next time, do something different that’s sure to change the dynamic. Get curious. Don’t rush to defend yourself or find fault with your client. Instead, ask questions to fill in the ‘big picture’. The more ‘data’ you have about what happen, what that felt like, and what the person wants to as a resolution, the easier it is to find workable solutions.
In fact, you can benefit from a disagreement, which leads me to the next myth…
Myth # 2 Nothing good comes from fighting.
You know the old saying that every storm has a silver lining? Well, it’s true when it comes to customer service issues. It sucks to have an issue. But there are positive aspects, too. Usually, you can’t see them until you sit down and evaluate the situation.
The good part of having an issue is that you discover so much. You can learn:
- About you, your thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes you don’t know what you think until you hear an opposing opinion.
- About the other person and their thoughts, beliefs, fears and goals. (This is where the solution lives)
- How to deepen the relationship. People are generally closer after they’ve been through stuff together (Constant fighting might be a sign of something else, though)
- Ways to expand your knowledge and alternative solutions. Great ideas come from everywhere, including clients
- How to solve the specific issue. You’ll have a game plan for next time…cause there’s always a next time.
- How to be confident under stress. Each time you’re able to respond respectfully yet powerfully you’re that much closer to being a ninja problem-solver!
There’s a whole lot of personal and professional growth packed in there. Sure, you can decide not to engage, not to deal with the issue. Doing nothing sometimes works as a strategy. However, you have to also wonder what opportunities you’re missing out on. Very often, the clients who complain turn into our best evangelists when they feel properly respected, solution or not.
Myth #3 Complaints rarely work out in the end.
Again, not entirely true. I recognize this negative thinking as ‘ if you give an inch, they’ll take a mile’ fear. You worry that conceding any point will put you at a disadvantage. Your client will run wild over you, asking for more and more concessions, discounts, etc. Hold your horses. Ask yourself this: am I like that?
Most people can be satisfied one way or another. Your attitude or optimism plays a huge role in whether an issue can ultimately be resolved. Henry Ford was right. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t- you’re right. Your thoughts decide. And, here’s an interesting fact. Less than 30% of what we communicate to others is in words. Most communication is non-verbal. So, if you think and act like a solution is possible you’ll send that message to the other person.
Next time, start the conversation with an encouraging, transparent statement like this one:
I don’t know what the solution is right now, but I’m convinced we can find a good one working together.
Who wouldn’t be encouraged by hearing this? Every client wants to feel hopeful that help is on its way. And, you take the pressure off of you. You and your client are now partners in finding that solution. So, the next time you’re tempted to shine on that issue, think again. You might be giving up more good than bad.
What do you do when complaints arise?