You need to be aware that you will have questions thrown at you constantly.
No matter how well organized, nor how consistent our service is to the customers we serve throughout the entire supply chain, there will always be questions or demands that appear to be outside of your company’s policies—or questions that are over and above existing agreements.
In reality, its nothing unusual, and such questions are an ongoing element of ultimate customer service and support in a highly competitive marketplace.
Challenges from our customers arise due to price and service pressures, financial considerations such as payment terms, alterations to product attributes and likely many other demands as dictated by the ultimate consumer.
As already communicated in previous columns, there are many companies who know how to manage exceptions and adversity very well. But nonetheless, exceptions are always the rule in the service industry.
Based on history and observation, what I ultimately found to be helpful for resolution goes back to my ‘Threes’. Here are the three elements of handling outside the box questions and demands:
Issue: What is the issue? Do your best to clearly understand the demand or objective from the customer’s point of view. Don’t assume, but rather work towards clarity and reasons from the customer‘s perspective. This is vital. Too many times, when attempting to answer an objection or a demand, we all tend to take the view from our own company and lose sight of what the customer is experiencing.
Action: Have a collaborative discussion internally within your own organization as to how to handle the challenge. Once you determine that your company can address the question or demand raised by the customer positively and negatively, then it is intrinsic to determine how to communicate the answers so that there is clear and concise understanding between both companies.
Tactics: This is how you will communicate and execute any changes or alterations to your policy and program to the customer. The tactic involved is, as always, clear communication. Does the answer involve a letter of commitment, and further commitment from the customer for lack of a better statement, due to an exception to the rule? If that is the case, both parties need to be clearly aware of whatever provisions and changes you as the supplier are altering to your standard operating procedures.
We all want to say yes 100 percent of the time, but we have to remember that not all requests and demands can be addressed to the satisfaction of our customers. If your answer is yes, then apply the appropriate communication tactics. However, if the answer is no, be prepared to let your customer know why they are being turned down. They may not be happy with a negative response, but your company will retain its respect and reputation for being upfront, forthright and ultimately honest.