Tag Archives: Dealing with customer complaints

Perceptual Positions

percetual positionsBy the time you read this thankfully all the campaigning will be over and we’ll know one way or the other.

There’s been a bit of a difference of opinion in the Cooper household. Hubby and I have homed in on different merits for and against remaining/exiting the EU!

Seeing things from different perspectives extends far beyond which way to vote in the EU referendum. When I’m coaching managers to get the best from their team or training staff in dealing with customer complaints encouraging them to see things from other people’s perspectives is such an important part of resolving difficult situations.

One technique uses that of perceptual positions, which helps you imagine what difficult situations look like when viewed through others’ eyes, in other words to imagine what others perceive by imagining that you are that other person.

This involves looking at it from 3 different perspectives

  • First position is your natural perspective. You are fully aware of what you think and feel regardless of those around you. This is of course the perspective we find most familiar. But as you focus on it you may only then start to realise what is important to you and what you want from this interaction. You will probably become more aware of what you believe and value, and more likely to be assertive about your own needs.
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  • Second position is about stepping away from our own position and imagining what it’s like to be the other person, experiencing the situation as they would.Some people are very good at considering others’ needs and concerns; for others imagining second position can be a completely alien view. When you are really in their shoes everything you do or say makes perfect sense to you.
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    When you do this well you start to get a sense of what the other believes and values; what is important to them, and a better understanding of what they want. And the better you get at this the more empathy and rapport you create. You might even be able to predict how they might respond in this situation. You are certainly in a better position to offer better customer service to a customer support to a team member.
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  • Third position is an independent position where you act as a detached observer noticing what’s happening between two other people. I like to think of this as the ‘fly on the wall’ or ‘The Consultant’s perspective’ What is important is that this position is an impartial insight into a situation.Imagine you are watching and listening to each of the people involved as they communicate without getting involved yourself, without having to feel their feelings and emotions.
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    From this new perspective, you more likely to get an overview of the situation, the bigger picture. You can start to notice patterns and become aware of similarities and differences between the parties involved, and you’re better able to analyse the situation logically with less emotional involvement. What’s also important is you can start to see yourself as others see you.
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    From this position what advice would you give ‘first position’?

When to use Perceptual Positions

It can be particularly useful when you are dealing with a situation where you are having strong negative feelings towards the other party, or do not understand their actions.

For example:

  • When a team member is acting in a way that you find destructive to the task in hand, or negative towards others in the team.
  • In customer service training to illustrate how to handle an angry and (to our mind) unreasonable customer

It doesn’t just help in negative situations, it can also help clarify the way forward in for example sales situation when it will help to see things from the clients’ positions or in a consultant position to see the situation better and help the client achieve their outcomes easier.

It works best when you physically change position when moving from 1st position to 2nd position and then 3rd position; e.g. in 2nd position move round to sit or stand when the other person would normally see or stand when you meet with them, and when the ‘fly on the wall’ stand up and physically look down on the situation.

The real learning comes by stepping out of first position to explore second and third positions and see what light it sheds on a situation.

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It’s more than just a questionnaire

checklistYou know that moment when you ask someone for their feedback or opinion and they say one thing, but you hear from their hesitation or in their tone that they think something different?

Well, that’s the beauty of face to face feedback.

So often when I discuss with clients how they gather customer feedback they refer to a questionnaire, be that online or a physical document.

There’s no doubt the feedback you gather from customers can be so valuable. Without it how do you know what’s working and what’s not, and how can build on the good and put right the not so good?

So gathering customers’ feedback via some kind of questionnaire is surely better than nothing…

BUT, and this is a big but, it’s a far cry from direct face to face in the moment feedback.

Why?

Here are 7 reasons you might not want to rely solely on questionnaires for feedback

  1. If you don’t know about any issues until you get back the questionnaire, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be too late to resolve things before the customer leaves or ends their relationship with you
  2. Whilst you’re still blissful unaware of any issues other customers continue to be affected in the same way
  3. It’s too easy to ignore a questionnaire.  It’s an interruption, often overly long winded and there may be little incentive from the customer’s perspective once the moment has passed
  4. A questionnaire can’t cover every conceivable aspect of your service (or if it does it’ll be way too long and likely to get the customer to abandon it half way through) so it’s easy to miss things that are important to your customer
  5. There’s often a time lag so the facts get forgotten or distorted: negative experiences get amplified and positive ones diluted in the customer’s mind. Likewise you’ve forgotten the specifics which means following up becomes more time consuming as there’s invariably a lot of back tracking to be done
  6. Your customer has had the chance to tell others before telling you (and we all know these days that’s not just one or two close friends!)
  7. Finally to my mind the biggest drawback, the feedback you receive is impersonal and one way, so loses those all-important subtle nuances you get when having a face to face dialogue.

So with so many fundamental flaws, don’t just rely on questionnaires – get out there and ask your customers directly what they think and how what you can do to make their experience even better.

We have to accept though that sometimes that feedback isn’t forthcoming, or it’s impractical to get to hear everyone’s feedback right away. That’s when we need to be keeping our ear to the ground and listening to what our customers are sharing amongst themselves.

As an example this weekend I was trying to register for my Boots Advantage card. The system refused to accept my temporary number, and when I tried to call the number printed on their leaflet it was out of date! So, no prizes for the customer experience to this point.

But, when I sent them a message via Facebook, I had a reply almost straight away. Was this just luck? Maybe, but stop and think for a moment just how many businesses are being talked about every hour or every day on social media – whether that’s Twitter, Trip Advisor or any one of hundreds of others.

So with so many how do you keep tabs? As a minimum set up Google Alerts for your name and business so you know when you’re being talked about. Although you won’t get instant feedback you can set this up so you get notifications as they happen, daily or weekly. Now if you wait a week to find out it’s too late!

But depending on your business you might choose to devote time and effort to monitoring the platforms most used by your customers, so you (or one of your team) can respond in the moment. Of course this means resolving customers’ queries and / or complaints. And what better way to appease a disgruntled customer than picking up on their post, thanking them for their feedback and responding straight away when they’re least expecting it.

But customer feedback doesn’t always equate to negative feedback. Think how often your customers say great things about you, share photos, even let their friends (and YOU) know they are coming to visit you.

What a fabulous opportunity that gives to engage with your customers, share their enthusiasm and create positive word of mouth.

So whether it’s in real world or virtual world, don’t hide behind a form or bury your head in the sand: ask, listen and act on your customers feedback