Interpersonal Edge: Customer not always right, but he's never wrong
Sunday, December 28, 2014

 By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Content Agency
 Q. I've tried to explain to an important customer that he misunderstood our policies when he hired my company. The customer can't admit he was wrong and is now talking to my boss, and I'm in trouble. How did this end up my fault?
  A. Implying, hinting or telling people they're "wrong" is right up there with telling them they're "inadequate," "bad" or "stupid." Obviously, we can't be human and not possess these weaknesses. Even so, using these words is the equivalent of declaring war.
  As a communication consultant, I'm often called in when these "fighting" words have been used. By the time I arrive, little work is getting done because the conflict is now about everyone's wounded self-esteem. I always start out these mediations by asking each party what they'd like to fix the problem. They often don't remember what they wanted because they're now just focused on making the other person the bad guy.
  Your customer is actually not upset he "misunderstood" the policy. He's upset you think he's "wrong." You are now equally involved in proving yourself "right" which means he's really "wrong." 
  To solve your dilemma, think outside of the right/wrong box. Instead, try imagining what outcome everybody might want. Your customer wants to use your service and get what he needs without being "wrong." Your boss wants you to make your customer happy and let your customer know what your company can do. You want to make your customer and your boss happy.
  Nobody needs to be wrong. Try focusing on the present; ask questions about what your customer wants now and what you can do now. Don't get into debates about what can't be changed and who screwed up. 
  If your customer is ridiculously entitled, all you needed to do was take his requests to your boss for approval or denial. Important customers who won't respond to normal limits shouldn't be told they're wrong; they should be talking to your boss.
  In dealing with mistakes in the workplace try to keep in mind that to err is human, and to focus on the end goal (rather than the error) is divine.   
  The last word(s)
  Q. How do you maintain a work/life balance when you have little kids?
  A. You often have to choose between a higher standard of living and time with your kids. Kids are a time-limited opportunity, work is not.
  Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.Sorry, no personal replies.
This column was printed in the December 28, 2014 - January 10, 2015 edition.

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