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How to Make a Difference by Focusing on the Positive
By Eileen O. Brownell   Printer Friendly Version

"Now I understand the secret of correcting the attitude of others and this is to correct my own."
-Og Mandino

A woman stands on the other side of the counter yelling at you. "Your product is lousy. It fell apart the first time I used it", she says. An angry man demands to know what you personally are going to do about the repair job your serviceman botched. An upset customer calls, using profane language on the phone. The man indicates your business can never do anything right. An individual without a receipt demands to know what do you mean you can't give me a full refund? The product they wish to return has been on sale several times in the last three months. A woman insists that everything you served had either a hair or bug in it. Of course she only points this out after she has eaten the entire meal.

All of these customer experiences are real. If you have never been on the receiving end of a customer's anger, you have observed similar situations in other businesses establishments. Negative customer attention and attitudes create a challenge for anyone. It is difficult to maintain your temper and a positive attitude when an irate customer directs their anger and frustration at you. Most people take the experience personally and immediately become defensive. Often this only exasperates a difficult situation and makes it worse. Your challenge as your company's representative is to provide a viable solution in a positive way. Successful customer service transforms the difficult client into a satisfied walking advertisement for you!

A positive attitude and response to a potentially volatile situation may well be the driving force that helps you overcome the 3-11 Customer Rule. A satisfied customer will tell three people your business is wonderful. A dissatisfied customer will tell up to eleven your business is terrible. The image of your company and how well you work with your customers is often based on experiences others share. A positive upbeat attitude in all situations will go a long way to help you maintain a positive professional business image.

Tough customers are a challenge. There are simple techniques however, to turn a negative customer into a positive one. Every staff member who has contact with the public needs to be trained to use the techniques effectively. The next time you encounter a difficult customer, take these simple action steps.

  1. Use positive words. When you restate and acknowledge a customer's complaint, avoid the use of words like trouble or problem. Try instead a situation or a challenge. Repeated use of negative words reinforces the customer's perception that there really is something wrong and maybe your organization will not be able to fix it.
  2. Eliminate your emotions. Do not take the person's anger personally. The customer is usually upset with the situation, not you. Use a calm, even, pleasant voice. Your level headed approach while under fire will assist the clients to control their own emotions. The customer's anger and frustrations will increase if your emotions are elevated.
  3. Create solutions. Most people want a problem solved. Additionally, customers do not want to compromise their values or feelings to have the situation resolved. Offer a workable solution. This indicates your organization is concerned about the individual, their time and the issue, not just making a dollar.
  4. Give the customer choices. Establish more then one alternative or solution to a challenge. Give the customer the opportunity to select how they want the situation resolved. People want to be in control of a situation, especially when effects them personally. When you give the customer choices, they feel better about themselves and you.
  5. Transfer positive feelings. Effective customer service occurs when you are able to turn negative feelings into positive ones. Show a willingness to work with the client. Use a positive attitude no matter how negative the customer may be. Ultimately the customer will feel good about your organization because you have not belittled them personally. When a client feels good, they also feel successful and will want to return.
  6. Focus on what you like about the customer. When a customer is upset with you or your organization, it is easy to focus on what we dislike about the individual. Our thoughts may turn to how fat we think they are, what an ugly shirt they are wearing, or we think their hair color is terrible. No matter how difficult the customer may be, always find something positive about the individual. It will help keep your attitude positive and make the customer feel valued.
  7. Say what you can do. Outline the options for the client. Tell them what you can do rather than what you can't. For example instead of saying we do not accept personal checks say we'll gladly accept your cash or credit card. The second statement is much more pleasant to hear.
  8. Present a positive image. A neat and clean business environment projects a positive nonverbal message to your customers. Your positive physical image states, we take care of our facility and staff so we are able to take care of you our client. A disorganized and unclean business facility will turn people away and will leave them doubting your ability to handle challenges that may arise.

No business or organization is immune to a customer with a complaint. How fast you respond to the situation and the attitude you and your staff display, can turn negative customers into positive walking advertisements for your company. You have no control over how a customer will react to your product or services. You can however, choose your attitude and how you respond to an individual. This will have a major impact on how the customer responds in the future. Focus on the positive to insure your business presents a caring customer service image.

For permission to print How to Make a Difference by Focusing on the Positive in your company newsletter or professional journal, contact Eileen. Ms. Brownell is also willing to customize articles for your specific industry.

Copyright © 1999 Eileen O. Brownell. All Rights Reserved.

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