3,765 years ago, a guy complained to his supplier about crummy copper ingots.

3,765 years ago!

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This tablet, which is part of the British Museum’s collection of ancient artifacts, contains an inscription that describes a man named Nanni’s complaints about two shipments of copper ore from a merchant named Ea-nasir. Here are a few excerpts from the transcription:

“When you came, you said to me as follows: ‘I will give Gimil-Sin (when he comes) fine quality copper ingots.’ You left then but you did not do what you promised me…What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt?…You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore (my money) to me in full.”

Customers have been criticizing, grumbling and objecting for thousands of years. And unfortunately, that’s not likely to change anytime soon! Still, it’s your staffing firm’s job to provide them with shareworthy service, each and every day.

The next time one of your clients channels his “inner Nanni,” try using one or more of the following techniques to turn things around:

  • Try not to take it personally. If your customer is frustrated, he’ll likely need to vent. Let him air his complaint without interrupting him. Keep your demeanor positive and professional, and thank him for bringing the issue to your attention.
  • Get to the heart of the matter. Use your active listening and probing skills to diagnose the entire problem. Ask him to share the details. (Often, just knowing that you’re truly listening will deescalate the client’s frustration level). Once he’s provided sufficient information, paraphrase his complaint to check for full understanding of the issue.
  • Demonstrate empathy. Instead of merely apologizing, acknowledge the validity of his feelings. Use a phrase like “no wonder you’re feeling (insert emotion),” to show that you understand what he’s going through.
  • Start your service recovery process. Once you’ve calmed your customer, it’s time to identify your options and decide on next steps. At each phase of the resolution process, check with your client to be sure that your proposed actions will be acceptable.

Have a classic “nagging customer” story you’d like to share, or a great tip for delivering exceptional service? Let us know! Leave your comments below.

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