Focus on Impact, Not Intent, for Better Customer Service

August 15th, 2013 | Posted by Jeff Seeley in Communications Skills
Focus on Impact, Not Intent, for Better Customer Service

Everyone has made a mistake that led to another person's disappointment. These situations are never comfortable, and in the business world, even the most skilled customer service professionals can find dealing with angry clients both challenging and stressful. However, it's important that when a customer gets upset, employees are prepared to deal with the issue as productively as possible. Often, this means facing the problem head-on and with no excuses. If these staff members receive the right customer service training, they will be well-prepared to approach even the most critical and high-stress conversations successfully.

Getting real
When customer service representatives find themselves facing clients who are less than pleased, they may experience a gut reaction to become defensive and try to deflect responsibility. After all, the company didn't mean to give the client a faulty product, miss a deadline or whatever other situation may have transpired. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently noted that even when this is true, it doesn't actually matter, as the damage has been done. The source stated it's critical to remember that even when the intent wasn't to anger another person, what really matters is the impact that occurred

As an example, the source said that if an individual sends an email to a colleague asking that person to speak up more in future business meetings and the recipient feels offended, the intent of the message is moot. Even if the sender just wanted to help, the person on the other end was hurt. HBR noted that these miscommunications can easily spiral out of control, but this can be avoided if the sender acknowledges the impact of his or her actions instead of justifying them. Even if the other person was wrong, it can be more productive to genuinely apologize and move on, the source suggested.

This principle certainly applies when working with clients. The most effective approach customer service professionals can take when interacting with upset clients is to sympathize, recognize their problems, apologize and get to work on resolving the issue. OPEN Forum emphasized that one of the most important things to remember is not to make excuses, no matter how strong the temptation. The source asserted that when individuals try to explain away issues, it diminishes the power of the regret expressed and takes the focus away from the affected parties and their needs. 

When professionals engage in customer service training programs that prioritize the development of excellent communication skills, they will be well-prepared to cope with the many demands of their client-facing positions. This way, when customers come to them with disappointments, they will be ready to deal with these situations proactively and with ample empathy.

Return to Blog Home