Customer service is essential for the success of your business. Yet many small businesses or solo-shops crash and burn because they confuse customer service with customer tyranny. They imagine that serving customers means giving into endless demands.
If you're troubled by customer service issues, try this exercise, an adaptation of Byron Katie's “Work" to business issues.
Write down the statement, “I have to satisfy all my customers all the time, and that means. . . "
EXAMPLE: “I have to satisfy all my customers, and that means that I need to accede to all of their requests. Since I can't possibly do that, I'll either go bankrupt or burn-out or get a reputation for bad service. "
Next, ask yourself what happens to you when you believe this. How do you feel? How do you behave toward yourself, your customers, your employees? What additional beliefs do you hold?
EXAMPLE: “When I believe that, I feel like a phony because I know I cannot possibly meet all my customer's demands even though I pretend to give good service. I feel defensive and resentful because it is not possible to live up to this. I feel cornered and I sometimes strike out or shut down. "
Breathe, you're half-way there!
Without trying to change your thoughts or beliefs, ask yourself, “Who or how would I be if I did not have this thought?"
EXAMPLE: “I'd feel free. I'd be curious about what customers had to say because it might help me do better work. I'd look forward to making my best offer in response. "
Now, look at your original belief, the part that you wrote after, “I have to satisfy all my customers all the time and that means. . . " Turn it around, re-writing it as the opposite.
EXAMPLE: The belief “I have to accede to all their demands" becomes “I do not have to accede to all their demands. " It could even be stated, “I do not have to accede to any of their demands" or “I have to NOT accede to all their demands. "
Notice how it feels to play with these reversals. Are any of these statements as true (or maybe more true) than your original belief?
For me, all three statements are at least as true as the original. After all, we're each responsible for our own businesses, and that includes being at choice about how to respond to a customer demand or request.
Sometimes we might find that saying yes to a customer demand is bad for business because it is out of line with what the business really offers or with the resources at hand. In addition, we can notice that saying yes to a customer all the time without pausing to reflect turns the customer into a tyrant or a dictator. Is this really a good way to treat your customers?
Let's not turn customers and clients into demanding children. Instead, let's treat them with dignity, respect, and balance. Let's make clear, clean, and complete commitments to them that outline what we can do, by when, and under what circumstances. Let's respond to their complaints with integrity, dignity, curiosity, and a commitment to resolution that serves both parties.
That might mean referring a customer to someone who can better meet their needs. It might mean clarifying your policies and promises so that, in the future, customer expectations match the reality of what you deliver. It might mean saying no to the request while saying yes to the requestor: “Yes, I value your patronage. It does not work for my business to provide that service at that price, however we are ideally suited to doing this other thing for you at a price I think you will like. "
The bottom line is that when you examine your hidden beliefs and challenge them you can open up a bigger playing field, a space in which you can make your best offer, do your best work, and serve your customers without burnout.
Molly Gordon, MCC, is a leading figure in business coaching, writer, workshop leader, a frequent presenter at live and virtual events worldwide, and an acknowledged specialist on small business marketing . Read Molly's customer service tips and articles to find out what makes good customer service , and, while on the site, don't forget to join 12,000 readers of her Authentic Promotion® ezine and receive a free 31-page guide on effective self promotion.