One Horseman of the Apocalypse: Defensiveness in Customer Service

Published: 02/08/2018

No matter how hard you try to please your customers, at some point, someone will be dissatisfied. Extraordinary customer service is required to repair and maintain the business-customer relationship.

Social scientist and relationship expert John Gottman is known for his ability to predict divorce. In his most famous study, he was able determine which relationships would deteriorate with an astounding 93.6 percent accuracy rate!

Gottman identified many behaviors that work together toward the demise of any relationship. One such behavior (described as one of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse") is defensiveness. Understanding and avoiding defensiveness is critical to maintaining customer relationships.

Don't Take It Personally - Defensiveness could also be described as "taking things personally." Listen to the feedback without taking it as a personal attack; instead, focus on the problem to be solved.

Ask Questions - One of the best ways to eliminate defensiveness is to ask honest questions designed to assist the other individual with expressing her or his opinions fully. Follow-up questions are also important!

Understand and Empathize - A good way to ensure that you are not getting defensive is to listen with the intent to understand. When you listen with the intent to understand, you take time to hear what your customers have to say without formulating your response while they are speaking. Put yourself in their shoes. Be respectful and empathetic toward their frustrations.

Unpack the Feedback - Sometimes hearing negative feedback can be unpleasant. Few people in the world know how to consistently package negative feedback in a way that is comfortable and easy for the recipient to hear. However, it's possible for a skilled customer service provider to separate the message itself from the way it was presented.

Take Your Time - Ask for time to formulate your response, if appropriate. Remember that any response you give may be shared with other individuals through visibility on social media channels. Your customers may even share their experience with friends and associates.

Be Genuinely Grateful - A good business gets better by actively finding ways to improve, and this process is much easier when someone tells you directly what would enhance her or his experience. Express gratitude to your customer for trusting you enough to let you try to resolve the problem.

For more information on how to provide exceptional customer service, contact Business Promotion at 866.664.5216. We are here to help!

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