Imagine this – a state agency has come to you with frustrations about a lack of communication from the central procurement office. They have not heard back from the office in over three days, and they are frustrated that they do not know what is going on with their solicitation. This is just one example of a frustrated customer situation you might run into in your operations. When these unhappy customers arise, there are steps you can take in order to recover from a bad customer service experience.
LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN!
Before you try to solve the problem, first you must listen to what the customer has to say. Make sure you are actively listening as well, which means nodding in understanding, or saying “Okay” and “I see”. If you do not understand a point the customer is making, make sure to ask questions to clarify. Make sure the customer knows that they are being heard.
Read this Pulse post for tips on working with suppliers.
Be Truthful – Earn Their Trust
Lying to your customers does not help the situation, so make sure you are being truthful to them. Earning a customer’s trust can go a long way in helping to make a bad situation better. Make sure they see that they are being believed.
Apologize and Be Empathetic
Show your customer that you respect their feelings and are genuinely sorry for their inconvenience. This does not mean you are admitting it was your fault, but that you are willing to help make it right. You also want them to understand that you feel what they are going through and understand their issue. According to MindTools, it is important for you to set aside your own feelings regarding the situation and focus your attention on the client’s criticism and the current situation.
Take Ownership of the Issue
Once you’ve apologized, you then need to take ownership of the issue. Whether or not you were the root cause of the problem, show your customer that you will take it on to help find a solution. Problems will continually arise; be a problem solver by taking ownership and working toward a solution.
Finally, after taking on the problem, make sure you try to find a way to fix it immediately. Even if you cannot give them an immediate solution, it is important to show that you are urgently trying to find a solution for them.
This best practice webinar from NASPO covers agency relations and customer service best practices.
Following these steps will help ease an unhappy customer and hopefully bring about a beneficial solution for both parties. However, it is important to remember that managing their expectations can also help prevent these difficult situations. Your customers may not understand your policies and procedures or have the full picture. Be transparent and clear with your customers to help build trust and ensure that you are not over-promising and under-delivering on any agreement. Several state procurement offices already have initiatives and programs in place designed to provide that transparency to state agencies and other customers and listen to their needs and their concerns and work together to find meaningful solutions.