This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my colleague John Smart writes about how important it is to listen to your customers, not simply tell them your opinion. – Shep Hyken
‘In my opinion….?’ ‘Can I give you my opinion…?’
Of course you can give me your opinion, but whether I will take it on board is another matter.
The problem with opinion is that it’s personal. If you analyse how it is said it is almost always started with ‘my….’ when someone is offering it to you.
Though ‘my’ opinion of something may differ from ‘your’ opinion. You may like Italian food – I may dislike it (I don’t, but humour me). If you are eating an Italian meal in front of me, and I start saying that it’s awful, it’s not nice….. – that’s my opinion. However, you will carry on eating it – because it works for you and you enjoy it.
Those working in customer service are bombarded by people giving their ‘opinion’. In some customer service situations customers are encouraged to give their ‘opinion’. It will then depend on the organisation to filter out the personal from the constructive. Therefore, an organisation, or an individual needs to be careful if asking for opinion. While the intention may be good, in most cases the opinion may not be acted upon because, as in the Italian food example, what they are doing works for them.
Opinion can sometimes be compared to a badly made cappuccino – all froth and no coffee!
What is needed here, is feedback, not in the form of opinion but good, effective feedback.
But how can this be achieved?
- Well, don’t say ‘my opinion’ for a start or use associated terms like ‘In my view…..’ Focus on facts, not just personal views.
- Unless the feedback is going to achieve the desired change – then don’t give it. Otherwise it becomes opinion. In the Italian food example I didn’t change the other person’s view (perhaps only that the person wouldn’t eat Italian in front of me or order me Italian food).
If you do find yourself in the position of being offered (or told) the opinion of someone:
- Ask them to clarify, to explain.
Customer: ‘In my opinion you don’t understand the problem here, if you did – you wouldn’t be doing that for a start.’
You: ‘OK, thanks, can you go into a little more detail? Just so I understand exactly what it is you require.’
They now have to clarify or explain the rationale for their ‘opinion’, and this becomes effective feedback.
It’s not to say opinion is bad, it has to be taken into context, and if your intention is to get that person’s personal view of something – then opinion is now in the right context.
So remember, when asking for someone’s opinion you will get their personal view, which may not match the view of others as a general rule. Also, that giving your opinion may not necessarily change or be acted upon.
Please note: this article is based purely on my opinion……..
John Smart is a development consultant, running his own consultancy. He has held senior management positions gained in Consultancy, SMEs and FTSE 100 companies, within a diverse array of industries. He is the author of PROUD – Achieving Customer Service Excellence.