Thursday, February 10, 2011

Customer Service - Airing Dirty Laundry

I just learned something I think is pretty important.  I did not seek out to learn it, nor take any time to learn it.... I just answered the phone.   I'm hoping posting about this  will re-enforce it in my mind, because I have definitely done the same thing that the sales rep who just called me did.

I learned that "airing dirty laundry" between yourself and your supplier (or employer) with your customer may very well be off-putting.     Dirty laundry such as  that your supplier does not allow you to order small quantities, even to replace damaged product, or that your employer has changed the procedure several times, making tipple work for you, etc.

I've often done it as a way to (I thought) make the customer feel like she and I were on the same side, both wishing the situation could be different.  I've hoped to foster a shared experience, and a feeling that "Im not the one profiting", etc.

Ive used it in hopes my customer would not place the blame on ME for my in-ability to provide her the item or service she wanted... and thus still have a positive impression of MY company and MY service.

Well.... today I learned that the impression I create when airing dirty laundry may NOT be the one I'd expected.

I just got off the phone with a sales representantive for a brand I'd contacted about purchasing items to carry in my online store.   He identified and introduced himself (great!), then asked about my location --relating it to a specific experience he'd had very local to me (great!), then he asked a specific question about my business(fine).  

The answer told him that he was not the correct sales rep for me (no problem).  As he told me, though, he used words like "awe, gees" and "uhg".   He lamented that the brand should not be asking the question before sending him my info.   (I agree, but from my point of view, he was essentially saying  "uhg, I wish I had never even heard of you")

He then went on a bit further regarding "they wont let me sell to you, I wish I could, but this is how they want it to be" etc etc.   We were conversational.   I went into "shared experience mode" and agreed they had wasted his time and mine with their policies.

Upon hanging up, I had a total negative feeling.   About him, about the company he is representing, and even about myself.    Had *I*, perhaps, left something out when contacting this company leading to his time being wasted?    Plus, I was now left in "stick it to the man" mode ..... that mode I had INTENDED to capture with MY customers.    OOPS!

Ive learned... when I air my dirty laundry with my customers.... even by means of explaining that I would love to help them but I cannot, I likely put them into just the same situation.

They "go along with" the conversation... but that doesnt mean they actually relate and enjoy discussing such things.    And, it certainly doesnt mean they hang up feeling GOOD.   Perhaps they, too, are left feeling negative.   Even that 1 minute later... the content doesnt matter any more.  "Who" is to "blame" for the lack of product or lack of delivery, etc, likely fades almost instantly.       The negative feeling, and the name of the person/businss who left them with that negative feeling, likely lasts much much longer.

As I said, I was airing that dirty laundry on purpose... thinking I was being smart to foster a shared experience, and show I was on the customer's side.   But now, having been on the other side of the conversation...  I'm pretty sure that was not smart at all.

Thoughts?

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