From The Other Side by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC
There are many famous quotes about always being two sides to every story. In reality, it is often difficult to see things from another perspective, but for anyone working directly with customers or clients, learning how to shift perspective is a key to retaining customers even in difficult situations.
Imagine a time when you had a problem with a product or service. If the company representative you spoke with did not acknowledge your problem and inconvenience, it is very likely you walked away with a negative impression of the company and the product. On the other hand, if the representative could see things from your perspective and attempt to resolve the issue, it is very likely your opinion would be more positive.
Empathy and Understanding
Customers or clients with a problem want to speak with someone who takes the time to understand their concerns and empathizes with the situation. They want to feel heard, understood, and valued as a client.
When you are able to create that space for the client, it ceases to be a you against the situation. Instead, it becomes the two of you working together on a mutually understood problem.
It is important to realize that empathizing and understanding the problem the customer is experiencing does not mean you are accepting blame or agreeing to the resolution suggested by the client. This stance allows you to work with the client to create a solution that works for you both.
Asking for Suggestions
Understanding the client’s perspective and showing empathy for the challenge they are experiencing makes it easier to brainstorm solutions. As part of this conversation, you can propose ideas that are also up for consideration.
By tapping into the shared perspective, it is easier to make suggestions or propose solutions that will meet the needs of the clients in a creative way. It is also a way to provide education and insight to the client that may address some of the problems they have experienced. Having the discussion from a solution-focused approach rather than an adversarial “I can’t do that” perspective helps to build the relationship even in a less than ideal interaction.
As a professional, focusing on creating a win-win situation is the best solution. The only way to achieve this is if you truly understand the problem from the client’s viewpoint and what the client expects to resolve the problem. Taking the time to ask questions and get the information you need to see the issue from their perspective is time well spent before simply stating the company policy or responding with a cookie-cutter approach to the issue.