It’s Not Your Fault But Only You Can Make It Better

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I was chatting with Bob, who recently penned How To Get Everything You Want Without Really Trying, about a customer service issue he was having. And he was angry, really angry. Angry like having a “do as I say and not as I do” moment when thinking about how he was going to address it.

We talked about various (productive) approaches — he was favoring the “I’ve been a good customer for years and love referring friends to your store, I’d like still continue doing that.” While I don’t think that would necessarily work on the phone with large hotel chains or airlines, it has alot of promise with small businesses where the cost of acquiring new customers far outweighs the cost of retention. Just make sure you don’t become one of those folks they’d love to never see again.  🙂

I recently experimented with a take on the usual “I know this isn’t your fault, but…” that is even more productive. Acknowledging it’s not their fault is good, but the “but” can still lead to some defensiveness. So I went with something like:

“Look. I’m really upset about the situation. This is in no way your fault,  you’re just my one hope for making this whole thing ok and making me feel better about your company. What can you do to help?”

I liked this approach because in the first 30 seconds of the conversation it established that I didn’t hold them responsible; that I, in fact, saw them as my best solution; and immediately focused the conversation on how to make things better rather than establishing blame. It also shortened the whole process, because the phone agent let me know they could only try to track my order, their supervisor was the only one who could do more, and they transferred me immediately. So in two minutes instead of 10 I was talking to the person who could actually improve the situation rather than bandage it which reduced transaction costs on both ends.

Bob tried a hybrid of his approach and mine with great results!

What customer service approaches or phrases have you found most effective?


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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel

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