Turn Provocation Into Pleasure To Improve Customer Experience

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I appreciate it when people disagree with me. It shows they are thinking hard and often opens the door to new insights and learning on both sides.

Sometimes, though, the other person puts a sting into his message – a touch of caustic comment to perturb, provoke and discomfort.

I used to hit back at such remarks, using my own wit in defense, with a touch of offense for good measure. I’ve since found a better approach that works to improve customer experience. Maybe you can use it, too.

A customer of Indian descent wrote criticizing me for the pricing of my video learning systems, all of which end with the number ‘8’: $388, $288, $98, etc.

The number “8” is considered fortunate in many parts of Asia. (In Cantonese dialect, “8” sounds like the word for “wealth.”)

He complained that I was trying too hard to “please the Chinese,” then commented cuttingly that my success in Asia might be due primarily to the fact that I am Caucasian.

To be honest, my first instinct was to fight back. But then I paused long enough to remember my values and positive commitments. Ultimately, I opted to try and improve customer experience by taking the high road. Here’s what I wrote:

1. I thanked him, sincerely, for his feedback to improve customer experience. Good, bad or ugly, when someone takes the time to write, it is already an expression of commitment.

2. I discussed the “8” issue, acknowledging that “.99” and “.95” are all intended to offer pricing below a round number threshold. I agreed with him that numbers ending with “8” were recognized and appreciated by the ethnic Chinese in my Asian customer base.

3. I then acknowledged how important his ethnic group is within the Asian market. I mentioned how enthusiastically and constructively Indians tend to participate in my interactive educational events and how they help improve customer experience by doing so.

4. I discussed the “white man in Asia” situation and agreed that being an international talent allowed me an initial opportunity to present my skills. But this is not enough in the long term.

The Asian business community is pragmatic and tightly networked. If any newcomer adds positive value and delivers more than expected, they will be frequently engaged and positively referred. If not, however, a negative reputation grows just as quickly, no matter what your pricing or the color of your skin.

What matters in Asia, in business and in life, is what you have to offer, what promises and commitments you can make, and what you can deliver.

5. I added a small note about how many hours I work each week (plenty), and that the time spent replying to him I considered time well spent. He had communicated honestly with me, giving me a chance to communicate honestly in return to improve customer experience.

A few days later, the same customer wrote back. He was surprised by my reply and was positive in his remarks. It seems my efforts worked to improve customer experience.

Key Learning Point To Improve Customer Experience

The next time someone attacks you with a complaint, an insult or a comment loaded with “bite,” take a deep breath before you respond. Remember – and apply – the power of constructive communication to improve customer experience.

Action Steps To Improve Customer Experience

Thank upset complainers for their feedback. Acknowledge what’s correct about their observations. Point out what’s positive about their point of view. Then provide your own key points, insights or explanation. You’ll feel a lot better about the dialog. They will, too. Plus, you will improve customer experience as a result.


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Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission. Ron Kaufman is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “Uplifting Service” books and founder of Uplifting Service. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit UpliftingService.com.

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