The phrase “the customer is always right,” was popularized during the rise of retail. The philosophy is that customer complaints should be taken seriously and not allow them to feel cheated or deceived. There is a fine balance between taking care of your customers and allowing them to misuse your service. Conflict is a natural part of business, but does not have to be added stress if handled appropriately. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes to really understand the cause of their stressors and put your communication skills to work.
Noticing the first signs of customer stress can keep issues from becoming a full blown crisis. The B2B lifecycle of a client is much longer than B2C and if you are fostering good customer relations, you should be able to notice when each client is beginning to show their signs of stress. Increased communication can be the first tell tale sign of an issue. Especially if your clients are in other cities or states, emails may not always express a tone, but a noticeable increase in any form of communication can be a red flag. On the other side, radio silence from a normally active client is also cause for alarm. Everyone handles stress differently and recognizing how your customer handles stress will make it easier when trying to solve their problems quickly.
When it comes to getting to the root of the problem, be an engaged listener and break down the problem into more manageable chunks. According to Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience, people only remember about 25 – 50% of what we hear. Active listening is the practice of giving someone your full attention on what is being said, not what the words literally mean. The key to being a good active listener is to check in with the speaker to ensure that you heard what they are trying to communicate. Repeat back what you heard and always ask questions to clarify any details that may not be fully clear. You will be able to really understand what your customers’ pain points are and collaborate to develop a solution.
As much as we would love every day to be conflict free, that sadly is unrealistic. The best things you can do is work on your active listening skills, understand how your customers deal with stress and be sincere. Always take the high road and ensure your customers feel respected in all aspects of the relationship, not just when things are running smoothly. Business to business relationships are built on a foundation of mutually beneficial products/services and poor communication when conflict arises can tarnish a relationship very quickly.