“Every day, ask yourself if your customers are happy because if your customers are not happy, that is the beginning of the death of your business. Customer experience is key/king” – Jack Ma.
The above was a quote from Jack Ma’s speech during his recent trip to Africa. It was a speech that I ABSOLUTELY LOVED listening to!
Another quote that struck home for me was his take on complaints.
He said, “When you see people complaining, that is where opportunities are found.”
(Really? We know that complaining customers are not the best to deal with. They are best avoided. Wish them away!)
Well, the truth is, a complaint is a litmus test for how we are doing. It highlights areas that need improvement. That is why we should always be willing AND ready to listen to a customer’s complaint.
However, let’s face it, listening to a complaining customer is never easy and can be draining at best.
But ignoring the customer or dismissing the complaint should never be an option.
In my many years in customer service, I always genuinely wanted to help my customers, but I always struggled with the right way to do so.
That was until my mentors introduced me to the LAQUEST problem-solving formula.
So why is LAQUEST important? You ask…
Well, just like in baking a cake, the ingredients need to be introduced at the right time and in the right quantity otherwise one ends up with “mathogothanio”. (That is Kenyan speak for an unsightly mess… :))
LAQUEST ensures that all the cake’s ingredients are introduced in the right order, right quantity and at the right time hence ensuring the cake is not only delicious to savour but pleasant to look at.
Let’s break down the acronym one by one;
1. L for Listen:
In his book “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, Steven Covey lists listening as the 5th habit.
It is the first and most important step in problem-solving.
Listening is not always easy and it is very tempting to want to put one’s own experiences and interrupt saying, “I know exactly how you feel”.
Listening is an art and is one that is worth mastering.
There are different types of listening and the most important one is Empathetic Listening.
It helps you step into the customer’s shoes. Helps you feel his/her pain.
Listening is a verb and it entails;
- Giving your undivided attention to the customer: Rearranging the papers on your desk as the customer speaks is a dead give away that you are not actually listening. (It’s happened to me. The person I was giving my feedback to was busy stapling papers together and trying to fool me that she was listening – True story.)
- Using open body language: Folding your arms across your chest is a big no no.
- Nodding in acknowledgement.
- Repeating “Yes” or “Umh” and keywords/phrases from the customer’s complaint.
- Focusing on the emotion or the pain that the customer is trying to convey.
2. A for Apologize:
The second step in our LAQUEST formula is to apologise.
We looked at apologising in the last blog.
Some people feel like apologising is accepting a mistake that they probably did not do.
This is not the case. When we apologise, we are apologising for the inconvenience/pain that the customer has gone through.
Think about it, when a dear friend loses a loved one, what do we say? We say, “I’m sorry for your loss”.
In polite society, we apologise. We feel the other person’s pain.
3. Q for Questions:
This is the point where we try to get the whole picture.
When dealing with a complaining customer, chances are that he/she is outraged and may not necessarily be making sense.
(Something to do with the brain releasing chemicals that affect his/her thought process but that’s a story for another day).
It is therefore very important to ensure that we have all the facts before moving on offer a solution.
The best way to ask questions is by using the problem-solving 5 W’s and H formula which ensures that we are getting specific answers.
The questions should start with;
Remember to speak slowly.
4. U for (Seek to) Understand:
After gathering all the facts, it is important to ensure that you have understood the facts and that there is no ambiguity.
Take time to repeat the points gathered and clarify any grey areas.
5. E for Evaluate:
Now that you have all the facts, it is time to evaluate options that you can offer the customer.
Paint verbal pictures of what you are going to do.
Let the customer know that you are treating his complaint with urgency.
As I always emphasize in customer service, use positive language.
6. S for Solve:
Once you have offered the different options to the customer in the Evaluation stage, follow through and solve the problem.
Say, “This is what I’m going to do. I’ll… (insert the specific steps that you are going to take.)”
It is important that you keep your promise to the customer.
Never, Ever, Lie.
If you promise to do it, do it.
6. T for Thank/Tie the Loose Ends:
Now that the problem is solved, it’s not time to walk away.
Problem-solving needs to go full circle to avoid “fire-fighting” in the future so revisit the complaint and see what went wrong.
What could have been done to avoid the situation?
And always thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention so it ends on a positive note.
Remember, there is no magic problem-solving formula when dealing with a disgruntled customer but LAQUEST has always worked for me.
For less complex complaints, I found that LAST (Listen, Apologize, Solve, Thank/Tie loose ends) worked just as well.
Whatever your style, whatever your technique, always remember the old adage, “Treat others as you would like to be treated”.
Do you have any thoughts on handling customer complaints?
Please share them in the comments section below.
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