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Today, I want to share with you what I've learned through collaboration with many people and from different business ituations. For me, when it comes to challenging situations, difficult clients, dissatisfied employees, etc., a method that brings the best results is compassion. Probably, many of you don't consider that surprising. For some people who don't understand how to integrate the principles of emotional intelligence, such as compassion, with a competitive business environment and continuously chasing the greater goals, it is the opportunity to see things from a different perspective.
Almost all I know about compassion in the workplace, I've learned from employees during my working days in retail. This powerful lesson I've learned from the girls who were handling customer complaints. At first, I was fascinated by their results. Almost every call with a dissatisfied client ended up with a new order. Only a few of them didn't finish with re-ordering. That made a big impression on me. I became curious and decided to find out what was going on here.
Many complaining clients began a conversation in an unpleasant, sometimes even in an aggressive way. The employees wouldn't show a single gesture that revealed they were upset. They accepted it as it was expected. By maintaining a uniform tone of voice, the girls would patiently let clients say what they had on their minds and allowed them to vent a little bit their anger. Even though the most complaints referred to similar issues (mainly about customer's unrealistic expectations of product's effects), they would treat each complaint as if they were hearing it for the first time. Despite the pressure of continuous and identical complaints, they
successfully avoided entering into automatic mode and give polite, impersonal, and useless answers and information to clients.
Their approach treated each client's situation as a single case. They devote their full attention to each customer. When they heard the same old complaint multiple times, they still responded genuinely and tried to find out more about it by saying: "Really?" or "Is it so? How does it happen? Tell me more!". Having in mind that each employee knew in advance how the conversation would proceed, it was particularly amazing. Their commitment, patience, curiosity, ability to treat everyone as if they hear them for the first time, and determination to offer support on the very human level--that's what brought the extraordinary outcome.
Confused customers who, at first, burst with anger at the company, the product, and themselves, would slowly calm down and open up to the conversation. It wouldn't take long, and they would apologize for their behavior and say their anger wasn't directed at them. They recognized the company as the main culprit. In this way, the relationship with the customer would significantly improve. After that, the employees would ask clients a few questions to find out at what stage of consumption the problem occurred. They would also give them suggestions on what to do in the future to avoid the problem. Without any suggestion, a client would reorder the product again.
At the same time, I've witnessed how many customers knew the employees by their names. When placing an order, the former unhappy customer would look for a girl, who had so empathetically handled their request and treated them as a human being instead of a buyer, by her name.
When I saw the girls responding to these calls for the first time, one thought had struck me. I thought that most of the clients would become so difficult that they would pester them with neverending demands. Surprisingly, the opposite happened. Most of these clients called only to report on their progress and re-order the product. The number of difficult customers considerably decreased. Not to mention how this situation affected the company's overall business and revenue in a positive way. It has been well known that the customers who contact a company to express their discontent are the most loyal customers. In this case, compassion
has shown as the extraordinary business strategy. The potential of this most loyal group customers is completely utilized and turned into the biggest asset of the company.
As I watched what these girls were doing, I realized it was the skill that everyone could acquire. I decided to learn this valuable skill from them. If you are curious about the steps, here is what they taught me. First, calm yourself down and help your client calm down, too. Then, show genuine interest in their problem and help them express their emotions. As you assist them while they are getting to the bottom of the problem, keep up a conversation in order to better understand their perception. Nothing works so powerfully when encountering a difficult client, horrible boss, or unhappy employee than the feeling that they have been really heard. Therefore, I can't stress enough how important it is to respect their experience and perspective. It is only at that point that you may form a strong connection with your client. Then, you may continue with offering suggestions to solve the problem. Keep in mind not to confuse compassion with pity when practicing this skill. Pity generally irritates people, especially when you are at the receiving end. The same goes for the situations when you feel sorry for someone and deeply believe that someone is in a difficult and hopeless situation, or believe that someone has limited resources and can't tackle the problem successfully. When you feel pity for someone you plunge them deeper into trouble. People who have experienced the effects of pity for themselves say they felt even worse than before.