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Dear AmyK,

Is it possible to train I.T. folks to be less insulting? We had a wave of customer complaints last week, and the theme running through all of the scenarios was that my technical support team is rude, condescending and dismissive. My business partners say you can’t change somebody’s DNA, but my tech guys’ contempt may cost me real cash.


President of the Patronizing
Dear Pres,

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.* There’s a myth in business that the customer is always right. The customer is NOT always right, but the customer MUST ALWAYS be treated respectfully, or at the very least, civilly. And you’re not trying to change anybody’s DNA, you’re just helping your I.T. folks access a different part of theirs than they prefer to use.

First, let’s establish a common definition for complaint. A complaint is a verbal expression of discontent whenever an experience falls short of expectation. Everyone shares expectations for certain activities and experiences in their lives. When these expectations are not met, or blatantly ignored or trivialized, we experience pain. Yes – pain. Not being dramatic, just being forthright.

Pool your impertinent I.T team together and ask them: How do you feel when you work with a software program that has major glitches? What are you thinking when you meet another I.T. person who acts like they have it all figured out?! How do you react when you buy an app or a game and something doesn’t work right? How do you expect the company of a malfunctioning product to respond to you? How do you wish they would respond to you? Etcetera.

These types of questions evoke empathy. And despite what many say, I.T. folks are capable of feeling empathic. They have expectations of their teammates, of their tech tools and of their company.

Once you capture their emotional responses to the above questions, you can ascribe these same types of feelings/behaviors to your customers.

Sadly, 50% of the time service agents fail to resolve customer service issues*. Therefore, to increase your odds, you must specifically describe concepts such as respectful, polite and courteous. Saying the word and having somebody nod does not ensure they know what the term really looks like and sounds like when they are interfacing with customers. Role-play is a terrific technique for demonstrating subtle and not-so-subtle bad behaviors and for modeling good ones.

Last but not least, not everyone complains. Some clients just remain silent and take their business elsewhere. It’s critical that your I.T. folks learn tips, techniques and tools for playing right… right from the start.

*Statistic Sources: American Express Survey, 2011

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