3 ways of “switching gears” to satisfy customers


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“Poker situations are dynamic, changing events, and you should be mentally focused and mentally flexible enough to continuously respond with the correct, and often changing, strategy.” – R. Steve McCollum, www.PokerBookReviews.info

As with any worthwhile venture, the process of achieving customer satisfaction involves an ability to constantly adapt to new environments and new situational eventualities. R. Steve McCollum, a long time Hold’em poker player, has played in thousands of tournaments, and understands the dynamic of the changing environment in active poker play. While pursuing one course of play, another issue or bet may come up which will require a shift in strategy to win the hand. Similar techniques come into play when attempting to satisfy a customer.

Many years ago, I was involved in a remodeling job where a customer had hired me to install some custom ceiling fans. It was to be a straightforward install in two rooms: one upstairs and one downstairs. The challenge was determining where to tie in to the electrical system to get power for the fans.

After an initial evaluation, I gathered all of the necessary information and supplies to complete the job. The customer was out of town for the weekend, and they agreed to leave me access to the home to complete the work while they were gone.

While the upstairs install went without incident, the downstairs fan was a little different. One of the existing electrical outlets where I had planned to tap into to get power was not in as viable a location as I had previously thought (and planned for), so I needed to find another solution, and only had the rest of the day to complete the work before the customer returned home.

After looking through several options, I was able to find a unique solution by connecting to an upstairs outlet alongside some other wiring that came through the floor system, and I was able to finish the work on time, and the customer was very satisfied that everything had gone smoothly.

While it may have appeared to them that everything had gone smoothly, what they hadn’t seen was the 1-1/2 hours of frantic plan revision and investigation I had to do in order to ensure I could complete the downstairs fan installation on time.

How many times do you have to “switch gears” in the course of resolving customer issues? What are some specific ways to improve this skill?

Remain focused on the objective. Just because something has come up to interrupt your grand planning, don’t allow this unexpected hurdle to sideline you. As you begin to look for alternate solutions, keep the objective overall in mind. If you become distracted with trying to modify your objective each time an unexpected event arises, you will never complete anything you are trying to do. Your customer has had some specific expectations set, whether by you or by others, and you are the one who now needs to deliver on that promise.

Remain flexible on process. Understand no one solution is the ultimate answer. As the saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” (which, as an aside, I understand is a reference to catfish, not cats in general). While you want to pursue a given course of action, you should always leave some room for modification along the way to the ultimate objective. Once you become “locked in” to a single solution, you begin to eliminate options, along with opportunities.

Master many techniques. The more techniques for solving customer issues you have under your belt, the more prepared you will be to adapt with a different course of action when needed. Referring back to poker play as an example, R. Steve McCollum writes: “Our goal should not be to pick one strategy over another for our favorite playing style. Instead, our goal should be to achieve the ability to play any of the strategic styles correctly at any moment, in any situation, regardless of the frequency of change.” The better you are at the various techniques, the more stability you can bring to the process.

For what it’s worth, I’m a pretty lousy poker player. Why? Because I haven’t mastered many of the techniques required for successful outcomes, and playing poker is not a huge priority in my life. However, I can do pretty well with customers because I have seen a lot of different scenarios over the years, and I have learned to adapt as situations unfold. If you are diligent enough to maintain consistent customer relations, I believe your ability to remain flexible will increase in proportion to your mastery of various customer techniques, and you will have more opportunities to genuinely satisfy your customers.

Just for fun…

“The difference between divorce and legal separation is that legal separation gives a husband time to hide his money.” – Johnny Carson

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of ThinkCustomerSatisfaction.com, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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