As a millennial, I’ve grown into a world where people expect things to be dealt with quickly, and they want as much information as they can get in the process. Just look at Domino’s pizza tracker. Why just wait for your pizza, when you can check when it’s being prepped, in the oven, and out for delivery?
This speed, and thirst for information, is transposed onto complaints and problems. According to a Lithium-commissioned study by Millward Brown Digital, survey, 72 percent of people expect a response to a Twitter complaint to a company in less than an hour.
To make sure I’m always ready with a response when someone complains, I like to remind myself of “The Five A’s to Dealing With Problems”. They provide a simple process that I can follow to connect with the disgruntled person in front of me, make them feel better about the issue, and then actually do something about it there and then.
Acknowledge the problem – try to really understand why someone is complaining. Stop listening to them complain, and start hearing what the issue actually is.
Apologize – you can directly apologise if there’s something that you’ve done wrong; or you can make the apology generic. Try: “I’m sorry that you feel that way”. Either way, the apology needs to be genuine. “Don’t ruin an apology with an excuse”. Don’t apologise, and then say “…but”.
Analyze the issue –find the cause of the problem. Complaints contain insight, so listen to the feedback – it should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you’re still not clear what remedy the person stood in front of you is looking for, involve them in your resolution decision-making – use questions such as: “What do you think would be fair?”
Act – tell them what you are going to do about the problem. If it’s an obvious solution, you might be able to tell them there and then. However, sometimes it’s not as simple – if that’s the case, we can still provide an immediate response just by being up front and honest – if you need to get someone else’s input, explain that, and then give them an idea of when you might be able to give them a solution.
Appreciate the situation – check in with the person that complained, and invite their feedback to verify that you have solved the problem. Even if it is obvious that the situation has been corrected; the fact that you care enough to follow up makes people feel valued.
I use these “Five A’s” as a tool to building trust and effective relationships with, and ensure that no one is left with an unresolved problem. They provide a valuable insight into continuous improvement, by inviting feedback – and then people know you’ll take the feedback on board and do something about it. It’s a useful skill to have in your leadership portfolio – because, even with the best intentions – your team members won’t be happy all of the time. If they know that you’re willing to listen to their problem, apologise if you haven’t achieved and accept your own mistakes (or at least acknowledge how their feeling about things and empathize), and then take action on it – they can know that they can come to you with problems; and you’ll continually be able to grow and develop and take the feedback on board to improve.
That, or you could just buy your team pizza. I’ve just checked on my app, and mine’s “Out for Delivery”….
Jemma Garraghan is a Project Manager for EMEA at The Ken Blanchard Companies, and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org