It’s Not Personal – It’s Business

It’s all about perspective.  I was recently flattered by a friend who came to me for advice about a difficult customer service situation he had recently been in.  He had a bit of a guilty conscience about how the situation had gone, but was still angry with how the customer had behaved toward him.  He felt like the customer had deliberately provoked him – but what he didn’t realize was that he’d taken the bait.  When he came to me, he was between a rock and a hard place because he now owed his company an explanation for the complaint written in by the customer.

My friend helps hundreds of people each day in his customer service position, and he’s very good at his job.  As we’ve all experienced, there is occasionally that one customer who challenges every fiber of our being – my friend definitely found his kryptonite customer.  The customer accused my friend of something, and then flexed his “the customer is always right” muscles when my friend didn’t back down – and they basically antagonized each other.  You see, my friend fell victim to a common issue in the customer service field; he let his ego take over.

I’m pretty sure that when he came to me for advice, he was secretly hoping I’d back him up and blame the customer – but I couldn’t.  Instead, I had to break the sad news to him that I thought he’d won the battle but lost the war.  The battle was making it out without apologizing for something he didn’t feel he did.  However, no one witnessed the situation, so when the customer complained to the corporate office, it made my friend look pretty terrible and created a documentable situation – the customer won that war and my friend is paying the price.

I had to ask him whether he thought it was worth it.  I estimate that only 5% of customers are “tough,” and that the other 95% make our jobs pretty great – so why let that occasional situation put your professionalism in question?  Knowing you’re a big enough person to apologize for something (whether you did it or not) for the good of the company is something you can be proud of.  Preventing a complaint, avoiding the company having to dole out cash or coupons in apology, and saving your reputation are the best ways to combat this sort of situation – even if you nearly bite your tongue off.

At the end of the day, it’s not personal – it’s business.  Make that your mantra!


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