Responsibility – Do We Take Ownership of Customer Behavior?

OwnershipCustomers present to us with a variety of opinions, attitudes, expectations, and emotions.  Likewise, our customer service agents will vary in strengths, customer approaches, and personalities.  We may encounter customers who are upset or angry on a daily basis.  How do we keep our customer service representatives from facing similar frustration and eventual burnout when dealing with frequently negative emotional interactions?

It is important to take responsibility for the actions of our organization without feeling directly responsible for those actions.  In my post, “Customer Responsibility – Are We Always the One to Blame” I address the idea that our customers’ problems must be our own.  There is, however, certainly a fine line to walk in this area.  On the one hand, you may have service representatives who completely distance themselves from the problems the customer is experiencing.  This approach makes sense on many levels.

It is, in fact, quite unlikely that the customer’s difficulties were caused by the individual who is tasked with solving these problems.  When a customer begins to place blame, it is easy to shift that blame away from oneself in order to maintain a feeling of personal integrity.  Representatives who are falling into this behavior pattern may be identified by the use of the word “they.”  You may hear phrases such as, “they will not allow me to do that” or “I’m sorry they did that to you.”  We should absolutely discourage this approach and work with our representatives to determine better scripting.

On the other hand, representatives must be realistic about their role in the resolution process.  Imagine a representative who treated every complaint as if it was completely their own fault.  That person would be miserable on a daily basis as they are constantly confronted with ‘their’ mistakes and shortcomings.  Representatives must recognize that they are in a position that represents the organizations, and, therefore, they are the face of the customer’s experience.

Each of us in only in true control of one individual, and that is ourselves.  We alone possess full power over our own actions, decisions, and choices.  While we can certainly exercise influence and persuade others to see things our way – we cannot actually force others to behave the way we desire.  This is an important conflict when handling frustrated or angry customers.  Our objective should not be to make the customer do what we want, but rather, to present and encourage options that allows the customer to make their own decisions.  In this way, we can resolve difficult situations in a mutually beneficial manner to both the customer and the service representative.

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About davidbernst

Hello! My name is David Ernst and you've reached my blog. I've spent my professional career as a teacher, customer service supervisor, and pediatric office manager.
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