When helping my coaching clients deal with challenging customer problem situations, I often tell them that their customers will help solve most of those problems if you let them. I explain that one way you can move forward towards a problem resolution, as well as show sincere concern and sensitivity to your customers, is to discuss possible solutions with them.

Not only does this create an example of professionalism, it also helps you move beyond arguments, additional conflicts or naming blame. You’ll resolve conflicts much faster and keep your customers happy, when you seek out options and then help them select the best ones.

Let me share an example, that occurred at a restaurant, I recently visited for dinner. An elderly couple walked into the restaurant and gave the hostess at the podium their name for their reservation. The hostess looked up the reservation and told the couple that the reservation was for 6:00 PM and it was now 5:00 PM. Confused, the couple looked at each other and the man said to his wife, “But you told me our reservation was at 5?” She replied, “I did not. I told you I didn’t remember and you said it was at 5.” The man was not thrilled and it began an argument between the husband and wife.

All that time I witnessed that the hostess just sat there and didn’t say a word. Perhaps possibly a smart thing as to not get involved in a couple’s dispute. The women then asked the hostess, “Well what are we going to do? We can’t drive back home and don’t have enough time to do the rest of our shopping!” The hostess just looked at the couple and didn’t say a word. The couple waited for the hostess to make a suggestion to help them solve the problem but it was obvious that the hostess didn’t get the message.

Again, the couple asked each other, “What are we going to do for the next hour?” Neither knew and both seemed confused. Again the hostess said nothing. In fact, her body language appeared to just want this couple to go away so she could go back to what ever she was doing. The couple then asked the hostess if it was okay to just sit near the TV at the bar. The hostess said yes.

I asked myself, why wasn’t the hostess more sensitive or empathetic towards the elderly couple? Common sense and courtesy would tell you to at least say something to calm the situation. Did the hostess realize that she could have helped them solve a problem?  It may not have been a big deal to her but to the couple it was big to them? Obviously a lost opportunity.

Had the receptionist stepped in to help resolve the problem, the couple would have experienced much less tension and confusion and she would have demonstrated her genuine concern for the couple. No doubt, making the couple feel much better about the situation and create a more positive experience.

When a possible problem situation with a customer occurs, ask yourself what options do I have? What different solutions or alternatives can you offer to make the customer happy. I believe the hostess lost an opportunity when she was aware of the couple’s dilemma and did nothing. What do you think the hostess could have done?

  • The hostess could have invited the couple to sit at the bar while she got them a glass of lemon water.
  • The hostess might have empathized with the couple’s situation and told them that there was a few nice shops and stores around the corner they could browse around to kill some time and offer water in a to go cups.
  • The hostess could have told the couple not to worry and that she would really try to accommodate them but it might take a few minutes, and then offer two glasses of water while they wait.

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But she didn’t and lost a great opportunity to do a little extra to create a positive relationship with the couple. Doing this would not only have made the couple’s experience positive to create loyalty, it would also have impressed the rest of us in the waiting area of the restaurant.

I suggest you and your team start with writing down one common problem your customers have. Then write down some possible solutions to that problem. Then take a moment to discuss and analyze what you have suggested and translate this to your everyday work. Get in the habit of mentally defining a customer problem. Once you do then follow these steps:

  1. Identify an opportunity of an existing problem
  2. Discuss possible options
  3. Ask for ideas from your customer
  4. Agree on the best course of action

When you take time to do this with your customers, you’ll show your empathetic interest and desire to help them. No matter how large or small the problem may be, this model works and will help you to maintain and build new loyal relationships with you customers. Now that will be Magical!