By Larry E. Collier, Jr., H.I. Development Director of Operations
It has been some time ago that I learned this simple, yet effective, method for improving the overall service at any business. It has been so long ago that I am not sure to whom the credit should be given for this most amazing revelation. I wish I could take credit for both its simplicity and its truth; however, I can only take credit for being smart enough to incorporate it into my daily business practices. Those of you who know me know I always say, “If you are going to cheat or steal ideas at least be smart enough to cheat off the smart kids”. I would like to give “kudos” to the brilliant people that came up with the simple anagram I.L.E.A.D.
I- IDENTIFY the upset customer. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to impact a customer experience. Look as you move through you business at people’s postures, facial expressions and body language. Not all complaints are voiced freely. If they were, we could deal with them easily and have all our customers leaving with a smile. Reaching out to a customer before they reach out to you can drastically change the resolution process and will usually enable a win for both the customer and the business.
L- LISTEN to the customer. Once you have identified a less than pleased customer take the time to actually listen to their problem, no matter how many times you may have heard the same problem. Do not talk over the customer, fidget, make faces, or any other body language that may be construed as defensive or uncaring. Pay particular attention to your hands and arms these are the culprits that usually get us into body language trouble. So many of us stand with our arms crossed that we don’t realize that we are doing it. I recommend clasping you hands behind you back to avoid sending an erroneous message. If you need to take notes so that you may ask questions when it is your turn to talk.
E- EMPATHIZE with the customer. Remember that out of all the companies that this person could have chosen from, to do business, with they chose yours. We have all known what it is like to have your expectations not be met. Make sure the customer knows that you recognize their disappointment and understand what they are feeling. A little empathy can go along way towards diffusing a particularly loud or upset customer.
A- APOLOGIZE for what the customer has experienced. Remember the validity of the customer complaint is never the issue, the customer experience is. Successful business people realize that what really happened is never the truth but what the customer perceives to have happened it our truth. We are here to resolve a problem and satisfy a customer, not prove who was right or wrong. Simply apologize, one of my favorite lines is “ I am so sorry that you experienced this.”
D- DECIDE a course of action. Choose a course of action that you feel will best satisfy the customers problem. If you are unsure simply ask. Many times I have avoided unnecessary compensation by simply asking “ how may I make this up to you?” Believe me, an upset customer is pretty good at telling you what it will take to make them happy. I recommend that like NIKE, you “just do it”. Your goal should be not to negotiate a settlement but to win a raving fan for your company. This is where you have the opportunity to make the magic that can set you apart from your competition and earn you a reputation as someone that cares. Go the extra mile by letting the customer know you will take steps to ensure that no other customers have a similar experience.
As we move about business remember I LEAD, sometimes “looking for trouble” can be a great business advantage.