Who’s better at defusing unhappy campers than Customer Service?
Finance certainly has no shortage of “customers” to serve, from your company’s external customers, to vendors, road warriors and every paycheck-earning employee.
You probably don’t have any shortage of complaints, either. In fact, some days your staffers may feel like the only attention Finance gets is negative attention.
Of course, you could let them spend an hour or two in Customer Service watching the masters at work.
Or you could simply pass along this three-step strategy the best customer service reps use to keep customer complaints from killing morale and productivity.
Make their problem your opportunity
Customer service trainers recommend that when someone brings you a problem, you should turn it into an opportunity.
Granted, that’s not always easy when people gripe about things Finance can’t do anything about.
But if you train your staffers to think with that mindset, even the most trying interactions can become more productive.
The other critical part of the equation? Remind staffers not to take it personally when Marty from Sales stomps into Credit again complaining about putting his customer on hold. When people take the complaint as a personal attack, they naturally get defensive and you can kiss any chance of a productive interaction goodbye.
To help on both fronts, encourage finance staffers to approach every compliant hurled their way by following these three steps, espoused by customer service trainers:
- Thank the complainer. This might be hard for some staffers to swallow, but let them know it really gives them the upper hand. For one, it disarms the other person, who was likely primed for you to fight back. Not only that, but thanking the other person makes them feel appreciated. Staffers could end up surprised – the conversation might not go any further. That complainer may simply have wanted to sound off and if you aren’t going to get into it with them, the case is closed.
- Press for details. If Step One wasn’t enough to silence the complainer, tell staffers to let that person keep talking. Encourage staffers to ask the person for as many details as possible: Who refused to approve the expense report? What was the reason given? Did the supervisor sit down and explain the reason with that person? Just caution staffers to be careful not to ask these questions in a way that sounds like an interrogation. You want people to understand that Finance is taking a genuine interest in getting to the bottom of the situation.
- Put it back on them. Ask that disgruntled employee, past-due customer, stubborn vendor one more question: “What will help us solve this issue?” Of course there are some things you just can’t fix: policies can’t be changed, internal controls can’t be circumvented. You don’t have to give them everything … but meeting them part way is a show of good faith. And that could pave the way to smoother interactions in the future.