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I believe you should be doing everything you can to encourage your clients to complain. Now, you must think I'm nuts. Let me explain. Clients who take the time to complain usually end up happier and happier clients are more likely to give you referrals.
Some clients will complain to you about anything and everything. Some will only complain about the big things. Most clients will not complain about the little stuff. They prefer to let things slide. The problem with this is that it usually leads to resentment towards you, and you losing their business. However, if they complain and you take good care of them, then you are likely to create a happy and satisfied client, who may give you a lot of referrals during the time they work with you.
A client with an unexpressed complaint is not going to give you referrals, and they're probably a candidate to move their business somewhere else - sooner or later. You have to create an environment of doing business with you that fosters your clients' candid communication.
How You Receive Complaints is Critical
When a client is registering a complaint with you, the first few words out of your mouth and first few actions you take can make all the difference for them and for you. Start off on the wrong foot and it gets worse. Start off on the right foot and it usually gets much easier.
When receiving complaints:
1. Say, "I'm sorry." (Be genuine!) Saying "I'm sorry" is not admitting fault. You're sorry they're upset, frustrated, or just not happy with something you or someone in your company did. Saying "I'm sorry" is an _expression of empathy that begins to diffuse any negativity they may be holding.
2. Honor their perspective (whatever it is). Their perspective on the situation may be way off base. That doesn't matter, at first. First, you have to treat their position with honor. As you learn more about it, and they feel heard, you can begin to work on changing their perspective (if appropriate).
3. Don't get defensive. I think there is a natural tendency for most people to want to protect themselves when someone complains. Resist this at all costs. Demonstrate you're there for them with statements such as "Tell me more."
4. Don't make excuses or argue. First, you never win an argument with a client. Even if you win the battle, you'll probably lose the war (the client will walk). After you've completely heard the client's position and after you have a solution that pleases the client, you may tell them some of the reasons that contributed to the problem, but doing this too soon in the process will appear as if you are making excuses and not taking responsibility.
5. Fully understand the problem. To demonstrate that you fully understand their complaint, repeat back to them what you think you heard.
6. Tell them what you're going to do next and when you'll be done - if appropriate to the situation. Some complaints have no resolution; your client just needs to be heard.
7. Tell them when you'll call them back. Make and honor a commitment. If you can't honor the commitment, call them and let them know you're still working on it.
8. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. Especially for the little stuff, you want to thank your clients for not holding back. You want to let them know that you desire communication that is as candid as possible.
9. Resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The quicker the resolution, the less it will affect the overall relationship.
10. Follow through and follow up until the problem has been resolved and all residual emotions have been cleaned up.
TEACHING POINT: A relationship (any relationship) that's had a problem - that's been handled well - is a stronger relationship than one that's never had a problem. Get good at encouraging candid communication from your clients so you can stop a small problem from becoming a bigger one. And when clients do complain, learn to be "comfortable" in the complaint. Your clients can tell the difference.
PS: Teach all your staff how to deal with complaints. Role play so they get skilled.
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For more business-building ideas, go to: http://www.referralcoach.com/tools.asp
Saturday, January 28, 2006
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This past week has been a successful week of helping clients and potential clients. Why? (It is always good to ask that 3 letter question) Meeting new people, re-kindling relationships, the right attitude, gratitude, honesty, focus, being yourself, learning new things, putting into practice the habits that will get you where you want to go, and of course, know where you want to go.
There will be a few more articles from others added this weekend, and my challenge to you is to stop dwelling in the past, and believe that you can achieve. If you don't, then nothing else matters.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Think for a moment about the most significant accomplishments you've attained professionally or personally, your own personal best. Perhaps it was the record month, the heroic turnaround of a failing business, winning a major contest, spearheading a successful fundraiser, coaching a winning team, climbing a mountain or running a marathon. Don't go any farther until you've determined what you consider as your personal best accomplishment, or even your 2-3 top accomplishments.
I don't know you or your circumstances, but my bet is that you did not attain your personal best while you kept things the same. My guess is you achieved your personal best when you changed something, challenged something; when you attacked the status quo, not when you nurtured it. The most significant accomplishments we rack up in our lives are when we step out and step up, not when we sit still.
Yet, oftentimes we forget what got us there: that it was the changes, the challenges, the walking into the unknown that brings our greatest accomplishments. And as a result we become more immersed in routine than risk, more comfortable with inertia than initiative.
Before you know it we're in our "maintenance mode," keeping things humming along, hoping nothing comes along to rock the boat or thaw out the frozen status quo. After some time in this mode we're not as excited about what we're doing any more, grow bored easily, lack passion and energy, and we're not even sure why.
The status quo never holds its own; it's just one step removed from sliding backward. "Coasting" is a dangerous state to be in since the only direction you can coast is downhill. You can tell you're making progress and pushing hard enough when it feels like it's a struggle, when it's hard, when it's an uphill climb, because the next level is always higher than where you are. Don't forget what brought you your most significant moments of personal or organizational greatness. It wasn't when you played it safe and tried to just "get by." It was when you stepped up and stepped out. Remember how alert and alive you felt when you were climbing, risking, changing and making an impact? You had a cause, not a job, and it made all the difference.
You'll never recapture that feeling or have that impact while you're watching what happens or wondering "what happened?" You've got to make it happen and keep making it happen. And all the while you're on the journey, if things ever seem too calm and under control then you're just not going fast enough.
Source: Sales consultant Dave Anderson (LearnToLead.com -- 2005)
Sunday, January 22, 2006
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I was reading some old e-mails from some of the sales and motivational writers that I subscribe to and noticed a reoccurring theme that was also echoed in my class this past week. Say it in ten or less. As you read today’s headline you will see I used 10 words. When talking to someone, you have 10 seconds or less, or you will lose your audience. You Must Stop Rambling, And Focus on The Very Best, or Most Important. Then and only then should you expand to longer.
Part of my job is to create advertising messages for my radio clients which I have done successfully for a dozen plus years. Last week I put the 10 words/second rule into place and it was amazing the response it got. Try it and let me know how it changed your life.
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The SPIN Doctor family was eating dinner at home on a recent evening when someone knocked on the door. A young man stood on the porch, smiling uncertainly. "Hi, how are you? My name's Bob. I'm the area manager for _______ Exterminators. Today I'm visiting homes in your area..." The SPIN Doctor said "no thanks" and closed the door.
Poor Bob. He'd been given a script that just didn't work, and he wasn't aware of the research that shows that an unsolicited pitch has only nine seconds to catch a prospect's interest. Bob wasted his nine seconds providing information of no importance to the customer-his name, his job title, his company name-and as soon as he paused for breath, the sales call was over.
What should Bob have done differently? One approach would be to simply say, "Exterminator. Seen any mouse droppings in your basement?" Bob must know that there are woods behind all the houses on that street, and as the weather gets colder the mice start looking for indoor accommodations.
Hmm, I haven't SEEN any mouse droppings, but then, I haven't LOOKED for any mouse droppings. And would I know them if I saw them? Just how tiny are mouse turds, anyway? Maybe Bob could take a look. Suddenly, Bob isn't interrupting my dinner; he's helping me with a problem. A single question using SPIN could have gotten Bob through the door.
Bob's sale is worlds away from the long-cycle, high-dollar, major account selling that Huthwaite and its clients are usually concerned with. But there is a fundamental principle of selling that links the world of a door-to-door salesman with the world of a Fortune 100 super-seller. That principle is putting yourself in the buyer's shoes. Would YOU buy from you?
There's a famous episode of "Seinfeld" where Jerry gets a call from a telephone solicitor. Jerry explains that he can't talk now, "but give me your home number and I'll call back you back tonight." When the seller declines, Jerry says he understands: "You probably don't want people calling you at home... well now you know how I feel!"
We all pay lip service to "customer-centric" selling, but it doesn't add up to anything important unless you make an effort of imagination to see the situation as the customer sees it. Call it the Seinfeld Effect: If you and the buyer switched roles, how would you see one of your typical sales calls? Are you talking about things that matter to you (your products, for example) or things that matter to the buyer (business problems)? If you're blowing your own horn, don't be surprised if your solo is only nine seconds long.