I’m a patient person. I really am. One has to be somewhat patient when working with children, not because they ask so many questions that they make you want to pull the skin off your face, but because most of what you’re trying to teach them is brand new to them and it takes a while for new things to sink in and be acted upon. I could probably end this post right here and my point would be well understood…but let’s continue.
I have 2 children. Recently I was working with one, teaching her how to tie her shoes. Thirty-five minutes and 3 metaphors for laces later, we decided to postpone for another time, as she had slipped into Peppa Pig mode and I couldn’t think of a 4th metaphor. Just as I was reaching for the tweezers to begin pulling out my eyelashes, it came to me…the reason why I wasn’t getting through to her, that is, the whole “brand new” thing I shared in the first paragraph. In addition, just before we quit for the day, she looked at me and said, “I’m confused daddy.” After my heart melted, I also realized that I was throwing too much information her way. I may have had more success if I stuck to one scenario and kept this new concept as simple as possible for her.
Simplicity In the Eye of the Doer
My little one and I agreed to part as friends and return to this activity at a later time, when we could both be more focused. I thought a little more deeply about our interaction. My goal for her was to teach her to tie her shoes. Was that her goal? I don’t think so. When viewed from that perspective, we were doomed from the start.
OK so Customer Service, right? What do you do when you’re explaining something to someone, and they’re not understanding what you’re explaining? As much as I hate to admit it, there’s something magical in the blank stare that some people can give you. As you are going through your explanation, the eyes just seem to gloss over. Sometimes they even drift away from center. I dunno…kinda gives me a false sense of power for just that split second. I’m sure I’m alone in that feeling.
As you’re finishing, your customer snaps back to reality. Sadly, they’re not as wide-eyed and soft spoken as your child might have been. Instead you’re met with blank, sometimes nasty stares. You might even be told you’re not explaining things right. Some might even say that you’re confusing them, that they need a simpler explanation, even after you believe you’ve delivered the most simple explanation available. And then there’s always the dreaded “Can I speak to a manager please?” This lets you know they’re absolutely DONE dealing with you.
So once you get the “manager” question, abort mission. The trap door is closed. They’re not hearing you anymore. Lucky for you, you get to offload this predicament to your supervisor. Let them try to please the un-please-able. Problem solved, right?
Ah, but what if you’re the boss? Most entrepreneurs will not have a “next level” to escalate these issues. If you’re the founder, CEO, owner, you’ll need to call on your powers of conflict resolution. Even if you’re the employee that has to diffuse the issue, you may want to follow these simple steps.
Back to Basics
You can’t fix what you don’t understand. Start by completely regurgitating the entire situation to your customer. More than having a problem resolved, people want to know they’re being heard. If you’re trying to fix what isn’t clear, it could cost you in man-hours as well as customers. There are few customers that won’t greatly appreciate you at least trying to understand their plight.
Ask them where it hurts. Once you have an agreement with your customer about the problem, find out what it was about the explanation of the resolution that they did not understand. Find out what some of their questions were. As you’re getting them, repeat them to the customer for clarity. Keep in mind that, while they’re talking, you should be thinking of ways to answer their concerns or objections.
Keep it simple.Remember that information overload that I was giving my babygirl? As soon as you see the eyes checking out, that’s probably why.
Heal the hurt. This is a tricky one. You must be prepared for the outcome, whatever that may be. It could be that the healing means that you and your customer part ways. Ideally you will be able to come to a viable agreement, satisfying yourself as well as your customer, but to expect that for every situation is a bit of a stretch. Sometimes there are few choices outside of disagreeing. This is OK, however unfavorable; as long as you know that you put your best foot forward by offering as much as you could, especially considering what your limits may be, based upon your position. If you need to let someone down, try to do it with some tact. There is always a nice way to tell someone that they can’t have what they want. Some might even appreciate your honesty, you never know.
And with that
Sometimes the best explanations can be completely misunderstood. Is that your fault? Not always. Sometimes people are just closed to the idea of learning something new. I have friends that completely reject the concept of modern technology, actually to the tune of never having used the Internet or email. I haven’t heard from them much lately, but they’re out there. At least I think they are. A few parting tips:
- Nobody likes a condescending tone. Adults tend to have this aversion to being spoken to like a child.
- Sometimes you have to break down complex concepts as if you’re speaking to a child. (?) I know. I just said don’t speak to an adult as if they are child which leads me to number 3.
- Master the fine art of simplifying while maintaining respect for your customer. You can roll your eyes after you make the sale or solve the problem…that is, if rolling your eyes helps you to cope.
- As always, control what you can control, your actions and your attitude. Be yourself and you’ll have your customers tying their shoes in no time!
Thanks for reading!