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Training Tuesday:Handling Problems

Training Tuesday:Handling Problems


It doesn’t take long for anyone in the transportation business to realize that occasionally bad things happen to good people.

• Pick-up or delivery times are missed
• Freight gets damaged
• A shipment is delayed
• A billing problem becomes frequent

You name it, it can and occasionally will happen.

Football coaches have a saying: “When a quarterback throws a pass, three things can happen, and two of them are bad”. When customers aren’t happy, whether it’s because a shipment is late, damaged or lost, five things can happen—and four of them are bad:

THE CUSTOMER DOESN’T LET US KNOW HE WAS UNHAPPY WITH SUNTECK’S SERVICE. NOT GOOD. The next time the shipper calls in a pick-up (if they give you a second chance) they’ll have a negative attitude right from the start.

THE CUSTOMER CHANGES CARRIERS IN SILENCE. NOT GOOD EITHER. At best, we know only that the customer switched carriers, not why or how we can get them back. Worse, we just don’t hear from the customer or can’t make contact.

THE CUSTOMER TELLS HIS OR HER FRIENDS. WORSE. If this happens you stand to lose several customers; the customer you originally dissatisfied, plus all the people they influence.

THE CUSTOMER TALKS TO THIRD PARTIES. WORST OF ALL. This can lead to bad press, or even lawsuits.

The best possible outcome is that your unhappy customer talks to you. This gives you a second chance to understand their needs, identify and correct problems, and convert your dissatisfied customer into a happy customer – one who’ll keep coming back.

Getting them to contact us is just the first step. What’s really important is what we do once we’ve got a dissatisfied customer on the line. Here are the proper procedures to best help your customer.

1. Inform the customer as soon as you can—they’re absolutely going to find out—no news travels more swiftly than bad news. Be sure you have the opportunity or set the tone to break the bad news in the most positive/proactive way possible.

2. Get to the point quickly by saying something like, “You’re not going to like hearing this”

3. If your customer approaches you with a complaint, don’t interrupt. Don’t become defensive. Don’t make judgments until you’ve heard all the facts as the customer sees them.

4. Take complaints seriously, no matter how trivial the issue may seem to you. It takes a lot of frustration to inspire most people to complain; therefore the complainer must take the issue very seriously. Remember, problems exist when customers perceive they exist.

5. Be proud to be associated with Sunteck. Don’t create distance from Sunteck by referring to it as “they.” Use “we” instead, and proudly stand behind our service without making excuses.

6. Apologize sincerely.

7. Avoid focusing on fixing the blame; instead focus on fixing the problem. The customer has already assigned blame to your entire organization and usually couldn’t care less if you can pinpoint the blame more specifically. The customer is only interested in the service. So fix the problem to fix the sale. Take responsibility for solving the problem and then solve it.

8. Let your customer suggest alternatives. Every customer has some idea of what they want as a solution to every problem. Find out what that expectation is. If any of the alternatives the customer suggests is reasonable, agree to them immediately and then follow up after you’ve complied with their request.

9. Do something extra. Correcting the problem isn’t always enough. Recognize the fact that the customer has been inconvenienced.

10. Trust the customer’s sincerity. It’s better to err by believing too many people than by not believing enough people.

11. Never just say, “I don’t know.” When you don’t know an answer, simply say, “I’ll look into the matter,” and then look into it, soon. Resort to this when (a) you are unable to satisfy a customer after offering reasonable alternatives, (b) the solution the customer wants is beyond your authority to grant, or (c) the situation is too unusual to classify as a normal complaint.

12. Empathize with the customer. We’ve all complained at some time. If you can’t relate to the complaint itself, at least relate to the process of complaining.

13. If the timing is appropriate, ask for future business—let the customer know this does not represent Sunteck’s usual high quality of service.

14. Follow-up. Make sure the customer is truly satisfied.

15. Don’t let it affect your interaction with the next customer. And most importantly: Most customers will accept occasional mistakes. How you deal with the problem and how you resolve it is what will distinguish you as a real professional.

16. Always remember that listening to your customer is the best way to help in an uncomfortable situation. Some people want to be listened to even more than they want their problems solved.