!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: How to Raise an Issue with a Customer

Thursday, June 05, 2008

How to Raise an Issue with a Customer

I recently had to pull together tips for raising an issue with a customer when the customer is, at least to a degree, at fault. My suggestions ...

Think about the person you’ll be speaking with and match your approach to their preferred communication style.

Keep notes of conversations. It is often good to follow up a conversation with an email to the other parties summarizing significant information and any agreements reached.

Encourage commitment to a specific course of action by finding out what is necessary for a Yea or Nay from the customer.

If you need to follow up on something that seems not to be happening as agreed, you may want to develop an additional reason to contact the other party. For example, you might combine your reminder with a clarifying question or an update about work your company is doing for the customer.

If you need to correct a customer’s misunderstanding or wrong information, do so tactfully.

A good rule of thumb is to think twice before starting a comment with “You ...”
  • If you know for sure that what you are thinking of saying is correct — e.g., “You agreed in your email on the 12th that we’d change the deadline to the 30th.” — that factual statement can be fine, so long as it’s couched in a neutral tone.

  • On the other hand, it may be preferable to be indirect, especially if you’re talking about a customer mistake. For example, you might say, “Somehow, this wasn’t what I was expecting. Let’s look at it together.”

  • If what you’re thinking of saying suggests you are able to read the other person’s mind — e.g., “You want to skip an important step.” — it’s usually better to revise your remark to get rid of what can come across as an accusation. Often, the best approach is simply to ask the person for their view of the issue instead of jumping to the conclusion that you already know what their view is.
Note that this advice applies with minimal modification to interactions with anyone with whom you need to maintain a solid working relationship.


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