May 16, 2024

How to take a break from your business 5b: critical processes

We’ve already looked at a couple of processes you could set up as a team, to start getting comfy with the idea of following a written description.

Here is another universal process that it would be worth getting everyone to be able to do before you go away, that will make that break less stressful for your team as well as for you:

Handling a complaint:

Obviously you can’t predict exactly what might go wrong for a customer, so this is not about predetermining specific solutions to specific problems. Instead it’s a higher-level process that can be applied to any situation.

Here’s how it goes:

Create Rapport

The process starts by acknowledging the person’s emotions as well as the facts. However unreasonable it may be for the person in front of you to feel what they feel, they still feel it. And while they are feeling, they can’t be thinking.

So what they need first is to be seen or heard as a human being, to have their anger/distress/disappointment recognised as a valid response to being let down.

This doesn’t mean coming out with the bland ‘I’m sorry you feel that way‘ kind of statement – the kind that’s usually followed by a ‘but’ – ‘but we don’t do refunds‘.

I mean genuine sympathy – ‘Gosh yes, I would be hopping mad too!‘, ‘Blimey that must have been sooo frustrating.‘ The kind of sympathy that enables the complainer to recover enough equanimity to move on.

Once you have achieved that, you can acknowledge the facts of what’s happened, without admitting liability.

If they are finding it really difficult to recover their equanimity, (or maybe you are starting to feel like you want a fight), take a break and come back to it. Offer to call them back in 5 minutes. If you’re in real life, you could even buy them a coffee and some time and space to calm down. And of course, make sure you are there when they come back.

Explore possibilities

The next activity is to find out what will make the complainer happy again. What will repair, or even strengthen their relationship with you?

You need to be able to offer a solution that is right for both of you. That requires collaboration.

Start by asking them ‘What could we do to make this right for you?‘, then continue to explore what they would feel is reasonable, without committing to anything at this stage.

Bear in mind any possible knock-on effects of the service failure – perhaps something else was damaged as a result, or they had to take time off work to come and see you.

Also bear in mind what is affordable for the business. It’s critical that whoever is handling a complaint understands the lifetime value of a customer, as well as the profit margins for your products and services.

By the end of this activity, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what would restore your customer’s faith in the relationship. Often, it’s not that costly. Genuine human sympathy and acknowledgement of the kind you give in Create Rapport goes a long way to making people feel better.

Exceed Expectation

Whatever it is that you’ve agreed on in Explore Possibilities – top it.

Offer a solution that will exceed their expectations, without breaking the bank for you.

This often involves addressing the collateral damage – for example if a pan breaks in normal use, you’d expect to replace it. If in breaking, the contents fell out and spoilt a tablecloth, you could offer to replace the taablecloth too. Or, if the customer travelled out of their way by public transport to make their complaint, you could send them home in a cab.

It’s this kind of attention to the inconvenience caused by failure that tips a complainer into an advocate for your business. Remember, they are complaining because they care about the relationship they have with you.

Deliver on the deal

Next, deliver on your offer, without hesitation, quibble or delays. Keep your promise. Obvious I know, but critical to do, and to do promptly.

Pre-empt repetition

Finally, work out how to avoid the same complaint happening again. You can leave this part to be done once you’re back from your holiday.

Examples of other critical processes to sketch out in this way before you go off:

  • What to do if all your tech goes down. How would you continue to keep your promises? If you can’t, how would you let people know?
  • What to do if someone has to disappear. How would you make sure their work still gets done or is handed over?
  • What to do if your data gets hacked, or is lost. How do you recover?

What would you add?

Again, there’s no need to go into too much detail. And you don’t necessarily have to cover everything you would need to be done just yet. Only what can’t wait until you get back. But in a crisis, having a process to follow is really helpful, for team morale as well as for business.

Remember, your people know what they’re doing. Remeber too, that your customers will forgive a lot, especially if they can see that you have thought about these things, have made an effort to address them, and above all, keep them informed.

Next time, we’ll look at what you do as boss that nobody else can do right now, and how you might decide what to delegate before a short break.

Discipline makes Daring possible.