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When the Customer Can Do Your Job Better (or at Least Think They Can)

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When the Customer Can Do Your Job Better (or at Least Think They Can)

My friend from South Africa, Marcel Oudejans, a fellow speaker (and magician), asked how I felt about this comment:

“If the customer you’re serving thinks that they can do your job better than you, then you have a customer service problem.”

My response was simple: “You get it. Spot on!”

You’ve been there, I’m sure. As a customer, have you ever felt as if you could do a better job than the customer service rep you’re talking to? Unfortunately, we sometimes encounter customer support reps, as well as salespeople and others with customer facing responsibilities, who aren’t properly trained, are new and don’t have the experience or knowledge to make good decisions, or are just having a bad day. The result is frustration. We may lose confidence in the business and their people. And, the worst case scenario, we may choose to stop doing business with the company.

But, let’s turn this around. Let’s say that you are the customer service rep, and you are knowledgeable, helpful and very qualified to take care of the customer and answer his or her questions. Yet you encounter a difficult customer who thinks they can do your job better than you do. What can you do?

Perhaps you’ve tried using the techniques you’ve been trained to use in difficult situations. You’ve acknowledged the problem, apologized for it (even if it wasn’t your fault), suggested different ways to resolve the problem and also of great importance, you’ve remained calm. What else can you do?

Well, here is an idea worth considering.

I call it Letting the Customer Wear Your Shoes. It’s a role reversal. You ask the customer this simple question: Mr. or Mrs. Customer, I want you to help me understand what you think a reasonable solution might be. Imagine the roles here are reversed. If I was your customer and came to you with this problem, what do you think we should do to resolve the problem?

This powerful technique is not meant to be used at the beginning of the conversation. This is when you are having a difficult time with the customer, and virtually everything you suggest isn’t good enough.

Now be warned that this technique has a little risk to it. Even though it is a hypothetical situation, you are putting control in the customer’s hands. That said, it can help defuse anger and sometimes it helps the customer realize that their demands may be a little extreme.

So, keep this technique in your “hip pocket” for the next time you feel like you’ve exhausted all reasonable responses to your unhappy customers. It may be just what you need to resolve your customer’s problem.

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