Pick one, quick.
Your company has just received a negative review. One where the customer says some pretty terrible things about one of your employees.
Your employee is an all-star as far as you’re concerned. On the other hand, your customer may be right. Both your employees and customers expect you to pick a side.
Get it wrong and you may do lasting damage to your business, customer and employee relationships.
Customer vs. Employee: Whose side do you take?
Side with customers and you risk creating anger and bitterness in the ranks. Team morale drops as employees start to believe you don’t care about them.
On the other hand…
Side with employees in your rebuttal and you make a bad situation worse. You infuriate your customer and you send a message to prospective customers that you simply won’t take care of them.
It’s a no win situation.
Taking care of customers is a disaster...
… If you’re dealing with trolls, ragers or toxic people in general, it’s a terrible idea. Monitor these customers yes, but don’t engage with them. They don’t want resolution.
Trolls, ragers and toxic people aren’t looking for a compromise. They’re not looking for facts and they’re definitely not looking to negotiate. They’re looking to inflict pain. Their motives are selfish and they’re closed off to anything you have to say.
In fact, there’s really only two customers you can help.
1. The misguided customer. These customers are confused, they’re relying on incorrect or untrue information. So you respond in kind. You share the facts, then when they’re open, you restore the relationship.
2. The unhappy customer. This customer has had a genuinely negative experience. So you do what you can to fix the situation, offer a reasonable solution and restore the relationship.
What about negative comments towards that employee?
Am I saying you simply ignore negative comments to employees? Not at all. I’m saying that you respond accordingly. There are three basic ways to handle abuse.
1. Spear. This is the direct approach. You call customers on their bad behavior, you address their poor attitude or inappropriate comments directly. This is a crucial conversation when it’s done well; name calling, bullying or controlling behavior when it’s done poorly.
2. Parry. You redirect the conversation to the issues that matter. If they’re focused on an area that isn’t constructive, you redirect the conversation to the issues that matter most. A good response to: “Selena is the worst!” could be, “I’m so sorry you’ve had a terrible experience. What can we do to make things right?” This de-escalates the situation and avoids the insult entirely.
3. Evade. Ignoring insults, using silence, avoiding specific customers – these are all evasion methods. Trolls, ragers and sadists are best handled with evasion. The more you engage with them, the more aggressive they become.
Here’s the thing about customer interactions. There’s no hard and fast rule. You’ll need to look at the variables involved and choose the right strategy.
It may be a good idea to parry a customer’s insult if an employee is out of line. You may want to avoid a toxic temper tantrum. Maybe it’s a good idea to spear customers, taking the direct approach to conflict.
You’ll need to decide in the moment.
You'll also need to decide how to handle poor employees.
Which employees are repeat offenders or trouble makers? How do you address repeat offenders? What is a repeat offender? If you’re dealing with a few bad apples it’s best to act quickly and decisively.
But it all depends on you.
What’s your policy? Is your employee going through a rough time at the moment?
It’s important to decide how you’ll want to handle each situation individually.
Start by listing your non-negotiable anchor points. These are the issues that are no-go’s. The mistakes that would require immediate termination.
These non-negotiable anchor points give you clarity and control.
Customers vs. Employees: You don't have to choose.
Simply fight for them both.
Side with customers and you risk creating anger and bitterness in the ranks. Side with employees in your rebuttal and you make a bad situation worse. You infuriate your customer and you send a message to prospective customers that you simply won’t take care of them.
Wise managers shoulder the responsibility.
Face the customer/employee conflict where and when it’s appropriate. Do that and you preserve both relationships. When there’s a stalemate you don’t have to choose one relationship over the other. Take ownership of the situation where you can and you’ll realize you have what you need to choose what’s best.