We have all heard the saying that the customer is always right. But if you’ve been in business for any amount of time, then you know that there are times when your customers are wrong. There are also situations when your customer blames you for their mistakes. The challenge in these situations is figuring out how to handle it.
Obviously, each situation is different, but the best way to handle it is by following these steps:
- Assess the Situation from Your Customer’s Perspective
Your customer’s complaints may be legit, but you won’t know if you don’t take the time to look at it from their point of view. The way I do this by asking myself the following questions: How do they feel? Is there something that I could have done differently? If I can’t come up with anything on my own that is valid and logical, I go & talk to the customer? I tell them how I feel and then ask them how they felt about the situation. Usually, I walk away with a much better understanding of how to approach the problem. You don’t know what you don’t know until you know. Talking to your customers is the best way to uncover the unknowns.
- Come Up with a Way to Present Your Side of the Story
Hopefully will have an opportunity to present your side of the story. When explaining your side of the story, make sure that you simplify the language enough so that everyone listening can understand your perspective clearly. It should be so simple that a third-grader can understand what you are trying to say. This is easier said than done so much sure you give yourself enough time to prepare. Use data points as much as possible to show your side of the story.
- Accept Blame and Move On
The best way to build rapport with someone is to show them that you care and that you are listening. There is no better way to do this than to say, “I heard what you said, I made a mistake.” This shows the other partner that you do care about their feelings. This will go a long way in helping you move forward so you can get your work done. Make sure your response includes a healthy dose of empathy and tact. When I was a Marine, one of my fellow marines taught me a simple lesson. He was in a situation where he could get kicked out with an honorable discharge. I asked him how he was going to handle it, and he said: “tell the truth, say I’m sorry and move on as fast as possible.” I’ve never forgotten this lesson since.
Remember going back at your customer and being combative is the fastest way to lose your customer for good. If you do care about the customer or project, then the best way to handle it is to take a step back and fully analyze the situation before you respond.