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The good news about bad news

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Dealing with customer complaints.

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The good news about bad news

  1. 1. The good news aboutbad news - dealingwith complaintsRubuss
  2. 2. Sometimes, everyone has togive customers bad news.Here’s how not to do it.(with thanks to HP Sauce)...
  3. 3. People don’t likecompanies givingthem bad news.Why?(Aside fromthe obvious)
  4. 4. Because people have morecontrol and self-actualisationnow than they’ve ever had...In nearly all areas of their lives.
  5. 5. Often, the way organisations respond tocomplaints makes customers feel their controlhas been taken away.
  6. 6. A sense of losingcontrol can makepeople behaveirrationally.That’s why peopleoften have a bigreaction to a littlething going wrong.
  7. 7. So organisations need to find away to deliver bad news thatgives customers control backand won’t upset them.
  8. 8. Let’s look at howHP Sauce handleda complaint...
  9. 9. You mess with it at your peril.HP Sauce is a British institution.“HP” stands for “Houses of Parliament”
  10. 10. HP changed the ingredients(and taste) of their sauce.There was lots of fuss in the press.
  11. 11. So how did they reply to complaints?
  12. 12. “Thank you for contacting us with regard to HP Sauce.The essential ingredients for HP, the nation’s number one brownsauce, include Tomatoes, Malt and Spirit Vinegars, Molasses, Spicesand Tamarind, and these have not changed over the passage of time.In line with changes in consumer tastes, we have long been committedto reducing added salt in recipes to meet voluntary targets with supportfrom consumer health campaigners. This very minor change to ourfamous recipe was made in November last year, and rigorousconsumer tests confirmed there was no significant difference in flavourbetween the old and new recipes. HP Sauce still tastes great!”EXHIBIT 1
  13. 13. Doesn’t soundtoo bad, does it?So why’d they keep getting so much flak?
  14. 14. Remember that stuff aboutbeing out of control andacting irrationally?
  15. 15. CORPSPEAKTHE PASSIVEPASSIT WASN’T ME,SIR!YOU’RE JUSTWRONGThey made four mistakes in that reply...
  16. 16. “Thank you for contacting us with regard to HP Sauce.The essential ingredients for HP, the nation’s number one brownsauce, include Tomatoes, Malt and Spirit Vinegars, Molasses, Spicesand Tamarind, and these have not changed over the passage of time.In line with changes in consumer tastes, we have long been committedto reducing added salt in recipes to meet voluntary targets withsupport from consumer health campaigners. This very minor changeto our famous recipe was made in November last year, and rigorousconsumer tests confirmed there was no significant difference in flavourbetween the old and new recipes. HP Sauce still tastes great!”“CORPSPEAK” IN ACTION
  17. 17. “CORPSPEAK” IN ACTIONWhat is it? What customers think✓ Sounding like a corporaterobot, not a human being.✓ Making your point - butignoring the points the personcomplaining has made.✓ Using tired, well-used phrasesthat people’s eyes just sliiiiideoff.✓ You sound remote, arrogant,uncaring - even when you’renot.✓ It’s like sticking your fingers inyour ears and singing ‘la la la,can’t hear you!’
  18. 18. “In line with changes in consumer tastes, we have longbeen committed to reducing added salt in recipes to meetvoluntary targets with support from consumer healthcampaigners. This very minor change to our famous recipewas made in November last year, and rigorous consumertests confirmed there was no significant difference inflavour between the old and new recipes. HP Sauce stilltastes great!”“IT WASN’T ME, SIR!” IN ACTION
  19. 19. “IT WASN’T ME, SIR!” IN ACTIONWhat is it? What customers think✓ Attempting to shift the blame.✓ “It wasn’t us - it was thosenasty health campaigners/thegovernment/the cat”.✓ ...that you won’t takeresponsibility.✓ ...that you care more aboutavoiding blame than fixing theproblem.✓ ...that you don’t care aboutthem.
  20. 20. “This very minor change to our famous recipewas made in November last year...”THE “PASSIVE PASS” IN ACTION
  21. 21. THE “PASSIVE PASS” IN ACTIONWhat is it? What customers think✓ A cunning, less obviousblame-shift, using a neatgrammatical trick “the passivevoice”.✓ Something just happens - butno-one takes responsibility:“The formula was changed...you will be charged... priceshave been increased...”✓ You’re being weaselly.✓ They can’t trust you.✓ That you’re dodging the issue.
  22. 22. “This very minor change to our famous recipe was made inNovember last year, and rigorous consumer testsconfirmed there was no significant difference in flavourbetween the old and new recipes. HP Sauce still tastesgreat!”“YOU’RE JUST WRONG” IN ACTION
  23. 23. “YOU’RE JUST WRONG” IN ACTIONWhat is it? What customers think✓ Telling the customer byimplication that they’re wrong.✓ Or just contradicting themcompletely!✓ You might as well just callthem ‘stupid’ and be done withit.✓ You don’t give a damn abouttheir opinion.✓ You’re more focused on youthan on your customer.
  24. 24. So how couldyou do it?
  25. 25. GET OUTSIDE THE ORGANISATIONOPEN FAST AND CLEARDETAIL AND REASONSGIVE OPTIONSCLEAR CLOSE AND QUESTIONSLike this...
  26. 26. GET OUTSIDE THE ORGANISATIONIf you just do one thing - do thisSound like a human - nota corporate drone.How are they thinkingand feeling?What do they think aboutyou at the moment?What do they need toknow and feel now?Think from the customer’s point of viewPlay it straight.
  27. 27. OPEN FAST AND CLEARGet to the point. Don’t fudge or waffle.If it’s your mistake, putyour hand up and admit it- no passive passing.It’s OK to say “we’resorry” - it’s more humanthan “we apologise.”
  28. 28. DETAIL AND REASONSExplain the reasons foracting as you did - don’thide behind ‘policy’ - givereal reasonsTell people WHY you’vedone something - it makesyou seem less high-handedUse the active voice; “wedid this...”
  29. 29. GIVE OPTIONSWhat would your customerlike you to do?What options can you givethat solve the problem?Where you can, give control back to thecustomer.
  30. 30. CLEAR CLOSE AND QUESTIONSSummarise what you’ve said.Wrap up warmly andsincerely, focusing onthe customer.Leave the door open forquestions.
  31. 31. So what?
  32. 32. Businesses often wonderwhy customers don’t behaverationally. It’s simple.People aren’t solely rational -they’re rational ANDemotional.
  33. 33. Deliver bad news and you get anemotional reaction - often out ofall proportion to the news itself.HOW you communicate thatbad news determines thereaction you get. It’s simple.Input = output.
  34. 34. Giving customers bad news isactually an opportunity to buildrelationship. It’s a chance forthem to see your organisationas human, customer-centredand authentic.
  35. 35. HOW you communicate isjust as important as WHATyou communicate.
  36. 36. Get it right, and you’lldeliver bad newswithout the bad taste.Sorry. We’ll put a cap on the sauce jokes now.
  37. 37. Your everyday, operational, communications are moreimportant than your advertising - because they are thecommunications people have to understand, act onand use day after day.Most organisations view material like this as anoverhead. We think differently. We believe the rightoperational communications are a powerful businessasset. And we can prove it.We focus on transforming this material - and theprocess and human systems that generate it - toreduce cost, improve loyalty, smooth customerinteractions and boost renewals.
  38. 38. We support and enable you to deliver worldclass operational customer communications,transforming a cumbersome overhead intoone of your most powerful assets.RubussSound interesting? Get in touch.01993 822524contact@rubuss.com

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