Many of you will be able to relate to this. My wife holds up two pairs of shoes and asks me, “Which pair of shoes do you like better?” I know I’m in trouble. Is she really interested in my opinion? Or is it a trick question? In her mind she already knows the answer. She just wants me to confirm the answer. I have a 50/50 chance of giving her the correct response. And, even if I choose the correct pair of shoes, she is going to wonder why I didn’t choose the other. Only one other question she asks could get me in more trouble: “Does this dress look good on me?” But at least she didn’t ask, “Does this dress make my butt look big?” Although she just might as well have.
Early in our relationship the answers to these questions could have had negative consequences. At a minimum, I could have inadvertently hurt her feelings. However, very quickly I learned that honesty really is the best policy. So, we talked about these types of questions, and the dilemma they potentially posed to both of us. We agreed from that point on I could answer honestly, without consequences. In other words, without having to worry about a wrong answer that might upset her or hurt her feelings. On her end, before asking the question, she would have to be sure that she really wanted my honest answer. Believe it or not, it has worked.
I share this with you because the relationship we have with our customers is not that different than the relationship we have with a spouse, partner, significant other – or any other person that is close to us. Everyone wants honesty. They want the truth, even when the truth hurts.
Yes, we need to approach certain delicate subjects with more diplomacy, empathy or care. But, in the end, we can’t lie. We can’t misrepresent or dodge the truth. It’s there.
If a shipment is going to be late, tell the customer before it’s late – because once it’s late, it’s too late. Or, if there is a price increase, let the customer know before they are surprised when they get their bill. I could go on and on with examples like these, but you get the idea. Sometimes we have to tell our customers something they don’t want to hear. But it’s better than not doing so. And, done the right way, it can actually strengthen the relationship.
When there is a problem, or Moment of Misery™ as I like to call it, seize it as an opportunity to turn it into a Moment of Magic®. Be upfront, proactive and tell the customer the way it is. Short term, customers may not be happy, but in the end, they will appreciate you for your honesty and, as a result, have a higher level of confidence in you and your organization.
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)