For Designers, Showrooms, Retailers
You might think from some of my communications that I am a less legal version of Judge Judy. My coaching is often direct and no nonsense. But that’s just my approach when time and attention are limited and the message is more important than the delivery…and the listener can handle the drive straight down the fairway.
Yesterday I got a call from a client, Susan Victor of Nandina Home and Design in Atlanta and Aiken, SC. We are similar in many ways and our communication with each other has very little editing, which works for both of us. She called because she had a design client who was very difficult to please. She had replaced one set of bedding at her own expense because the client had issues with the quality and was going back for a second conversation about the nail head trim and a couple of other unacceptable details on an ottoman. Got the picture? Good.
Susan had the good sense to call me. Not because she was unable to manage this interaction on her own, but because she knew that left to her own devices her ego and desire to be right was going to make more of a mess of things. And she wanted to be prepared and have a game plan. I asked some questions – What do you want to get out of this? What does the client want to get out of it? What are you unwilling to accept?
From her answers, we settled on a game plan in which she would first generate empathy for the customer and start the discussion from a neutral place. And to treat the issue as she would treat any ‘objection’ with a strategy to manage the conversation and to resolve the concern. She was to ask the client what the specifics were that were unacceptable…and listen all the way to the end of what the client needed to say, and then and only then was she to ask if she could explain some of the industry standards and tolerances at this price point so that the client could understand the physical product and production limitations. And then she was to ask what the client wanted her to do….and she could either accept, decline or renegotiate the request. Still with me? Good.
She followed the game plan. When she asked what the client wanted her to do, the client said that she wanted the ottoman removed and her money back. Susan asked if she was happy with the bedding now, and she said she was…to which Susan said, good because she was not taking that back again. Susan said that she would do as requested, but she also had a request – that when anyone asked about Susan and Nandina Home, that they client would say that they were ethical, fair, did good work and sold good products – to which the client agreed. As they got up to leave, and mind you Susan was fighting back tears, the client hugged her…really hugged her, and thanked her for understanding. Susan said, “I want you to know that by any standard, this product is acceptable and I am taking it back because it is unacceptable to you. And that I value my company reputation and the service we provide – especially when things don’t go well.”
I am sure you have thoughts about this and I’d love to hear them. But know this; it was a hard thing for her to do. It’s always a hard thing when you know you’re in the right and it’s just not working on the other side. It’s a hard thing to not let being right take over. It’s a hard thing to not get caught up in the justification such that you don’t even ask for help. That’s where gracious, elegant, responsible, mature decision making comes in.
Congratulations Susan. You’re a champion by any standard.