Deep in the Woods
Listen Well - part 7 of an 8 part series
One-third of a protein bar and a handful of dehydrated fruit oozed energy into my cells. The warmth of the sun caressed my face. After some time I sighed, “We’re still lost. Now what?” My dark-haired friend thought we should walk west, searching for a wide open swath before heading downhill. My blonde-haired friend thought we should walk east, searching for the same physical feature. I felt we should head to the creek below because we knew the road was on the opposite side and ran the same way as the stream. Each of our opinions held pros and cons. The conversation held angst because we each felt our own plan was correct.
Sitting up, I observed the position of the sun to determine the direction as well as the time of day. “We’ve got time. Let’s go west first for fifteen minutes. If we don’t encounter the opening, we head back here and walk east another fifteen minutes. If that doesn’t work, we scramble down to the creek and bushwhack to the road.” Everyone agreed and we headed off.
Business owners don’t like listening, unless it’s about an idea they came up with in the first place. When customers arrive at our shop with a problem, it’s easy to raise hackles pretty darn quick. We become too busy defending our livelihood. It took me sixty years to come to this conclusion after being dragged through the mud more times than I’d like to admit.
When an angry customer shows up, I now say, “Come sit in this comfortable chair to talk with me. I want to hear this. Can I get you a cold drink first?” Offer comfort and validation in one sweep. The result is immediate defusing of the situation. Then I do as I promised by not saying a single word until the client runs out of steam and takes a breath.
Take time for a pregnant pause, which gives a moment to think about what you just heard and the client understands they’ve been taken seriously. Offer a quick summation back, and ask if this is correct. Don’t be in a rush—be certain you’ve heard correctly. Once the customer agrees, offer resolution. That doesn’t mean a client can walk all over you.
Sometimes I realized our company wasn’t correct and I settled in the clients favor. Sometimes I had a counter-point always backed by evidence or documents to support my case. At no time did my voice rise higher than a monk chanting a meditation. (If you feel yourself getting irate, take a potty break. Step away and refocus.)
My final question to the client was, “What would you like me to do?” It’s surprising that 99% of people really want to be fair and come to an agreeable conclusion. Often I did nothing but have a discussion, because the customer’s needs were met. Keep a customer and gain respect. The 1% who remain upset must have personality disorders. (Smiley face here.)