Manipulation: follow up.
I really felt like my post regarding a sort of altruistic type of manipulation served as an introduction to a very interesting subject: There’s an urge inside all of us, especially service providers, to think that all your customers are either stupid or just plain unfriendly. I mean, my customers have often told me the same thing, since they are themselves offering support to a third party and often come across questions that defy logic.
You know what? In a sense, we are right.
However, we fail to think that, to them, especially when following orders, we come across as unfriendly and stupid as well. And on top, we fail to realize that most of the people we are in contact with are successful in their professions and possibly have a loving next-of-kin at home who might think that they are cool, friendly people (not all, of course). This is important… An external, sometimes opposite point of view, helps you realize that you are talking to a human being, not some cash-register that you need in order to guarantee your monthly income.
In the end, telling them to piss-off is only going to get you so far as giving you that short-term sensation of having big cojones, while probably robbing you of your weekend’s thoughts: “That guy is gonna call me on Monday an I’m still not gonna have a solution for him”.
Yep, life’s tough for hard-headed people.
The aforementioned information finally allows me to get to two examples I’ve come across this week, surprisingly not long after I’ve let my new-found initiative become a sort of religion I aim to follow, as well as propagate in a sort of dogmatic guru thing to my division.
Implementation of our product is something that shouldn’t take longer than six weeks and this one customer has been at it for four months. He didn’t give us something to work with and seemed at first like a sort of standard fare thing. Of course, it probably lacked in proactivity from our side, but nonetheless we don’t have time to baby-sit and a welcoming talk I have with every new customer should cover all the basics. The customer also wasn’t comfortable with the transition from sales to IT/Support and the sales-guy was starting to get on my nerves after some months, because, well, he was getting complaints that he shouldn’t be getting in the first place and was miscommunicating it all to me because he doesn’t work with the technical aspects of it.
It was a disaster that seemed like it couldn’t go uphill anymore. I had that shitty feeling that I just might lose a customer.
My last resort was to really babysit the guy.
I sent an email, to which he responded aggressively, copying the sales-guy in the process, finally leading to an email to the sales-manager (who is hierarchically as high in the company as I am). As the sales-manager always does, being a straight follower of processes, he forwarded me the email, asked what’s up and the subject was thus resolved for him. He knows this is a matter of support and doesn’t break a second of sweat if it doesn’t regard sales. Thankfully, my last email was plagued with complaints that the customer was almost unreachable by telephone and that I needed to talk to him if we were to find a solution. The ball was on his side of the court.
On Thursday I sent him yet another email. Corrections to his things were made “according to my understanding of his briefing” and I was going to call him in about an hour to talk about it.
My phone rang about five minutes after this.
I had a gut-feeling that it was him, since it was his country’s area code and I promptly picked up since my assistant was on vacation. Lo and behold, he started the conversation by saying that he felt he wasn’t being taken seriously by my programmers, that it felt like we were screwing him over.
This is that point in your life were one wrong answer could cost you the customer.
Thankfully, I was able to tone down his anger in about five minutes, where in a very friendly manner I basically taught this guy that, this was not his area of expertise and that he should put a little more faith in us, listening to our instructions. This is one of those guys (like 99% of the population) that throws away the instruction manual of anything he buys. Our product is one of the seldom examples where this doesn’t work and we provide every customer with a short-term premium support that helps you in the transition of your company to work with it.
Help is there, free of charge, I just needed to convince him that he needed it.
The conversation basically ended with him asking me, or satirically threatening me, if he should come to us to sign approval of the data. I replied to him, that if we come that far, I would go to him. We laughed and, on the following day after some really small corrections, his first reply was that everything was almost perfect…
How the hell is the gap between catastrophe and almost perfect so small?!?
It is very simple if you portray it as a matter of points of view. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, after all.
And what about me? I now look forward to talking with this guy. After four months, he has proof that I am not a giant douche-bag and I believe it will be one of the more pleasant customers to work with. It feels much better than telling the guy to fuck-off, lasts much longer and gets me better results in my job. It is a win, win, win situation that I have come across with other customers. And to start it all, he never deserved any mistreatment on my side, after all he payed me to do my job and I should do it, not the way he sees it, but adapted to the way that helps us best.
A lady that was forced to use our product by her superiors and accuses it to be impractical and buggy called this week and talked to me by accident, not landing on the line with the guy who was replying her tickets. This was one of the ones accused by the division of being “not qualified to use such a complicated product”. You know what, I got her through a tour of one of the most complicated parts of the product, we concluded that her accountant, not the software, had made a mistake and she was truly impressed by how much time and work she could spare if using our software according to specs. It was the first time she thanked me twice and not clearly for the sake of being polite. This made my day all the much better.
It’s a matter of attitude.
A goal-oriented way of thinking is not just a cliche used in business work-shops and group-therapy. It is much more an egotistic way of seeing things in a productive manner and making your life easier. OK, cool, I got both my examples above to do whatever I wanted (positive manipulation) but still, they are going to annoy me much less in the future, give my guys much less work to do, I’m not gonna say any of a random choice of five curse words when I see their number on my display. It is all going to be because of the simple fact that they are happy.