Join Fancy Mills for an in-depth discussion in this video How to effectively manage conflict, part of IT Service Desk: Customer Service Fundamentals.
- Have you ever picked up a call or walked into someone's office or had a customer walk in and they were already angry or in a heightened emotional state? This is all before we've even managed to get a word in. Learning how to manage conflict is a skill that is vital for all technicians. We often begin a contact when the customer is already in conflict. Our job is to quickly manage and defuse the situation and establish a rapport with our customer.
This is not always easy when we're dealing with a variety of emotions and types of conflict. Conflict is not a dirty word. Conflict is natural, it happens every day. When our processes in technology don't work, either as designed or as the customer expects, it causes conflict. If we as a support organization provide poor service or don't follow up on a commitment, it causes conflict. The goal is to manage the conflict and resolve the issue.
We have to build rapport and resolve the issue as efficiently and effectively as we can. There are six steps to effectively managing conflict with a customer. Listen carefully to understand the source of the conflict and how it makes the customer feel. We want to empathize and acknowledge the conflict. We want to state what we know about the conflict. Determine if and how you can resolve the conflict. Gain agreement to resolve.
Lastly, resolve and confirm the conflict. Let's look at each step in the context of a service contact. The first step is to listen carefully to fully understand the source of the conflict and the customer's emotions. Something to note, we should remain calm and take a breath. We want to remain neutral and avoid being drawn into the conflict. Once we allow ourselves to get drawn into the conflict, we are unable to do our job as effectively.
Our second step is to empathize and acknowledge the conflict. The two most common customer complaints are that technicians didn't understand their needs and didn't act like they even cared. - My brand new printer is completely screwed up. I've got a report due in the morning and have no way to get it printed. - Now we can empathize and acknowledge what we know. - Wow, I'm sorry that the printer is having issues. I know this is frustrating as it's brand new. - By using some of the empathy statements we covered earlier and acknowledging the customer's emotion, we show them that we're listening, care and want to move to action.
Now that we've acknowledged the source of the conflict and emotion, we can start to state and confirm what we've heard and what we know about the conflict. What we know about the conflict is simple. Have we seen this before? Are there other current issues like this one? Is this an old error or is this something brand new? We are informing the customer what we know based on our knowledge and research. - Let's work on getting this issue fixed quickly so you can get your reports printed. You mentioned there was an error on the screen, correct? Can I get you to read that to me again.
- [Customer] 0x00079. - Error 0x00079, thank you. - Now that we understand the conflict, confirmed it, informed the customer of what we know, we can move on to finding a resolution. If we can resolve the conflict, we may need to gain agreement to move forward to resolution, particularly if the resolution may be time consuming or temporarily inconvenient for the customer.
Gaining agreement may not always be necessary, especially if you're answering a question or providing guidance. Once we gain agreement, we move onto the next step, to resolution. - It's a common error and it can be fixed quickly. Would you like to do that now? - Yeah. - The last step is to apply a solution to resolve the conflict and ensure that the customer is satisfied. This step is important to ensure that the conflict is resolved from the customer's perspective.
Validating customer satisfaction is the final step in conflict resolution. - Did the test page print properly? - [Customer] Uh-huh. - Great, that confirms that it is working. Would you like to print your report while I'm here with you to ensure that it does work? - [Customer] It's printing. - Okay, if there are any further issues, please call us back. - By following these steps, we can provide a framework to effectively manage conflict and focus on resolving a customer's conflict to their satisfaction.
We'll talk more about how to manage conflict with different types of customers in the next chapter.
First, Fancy provides guidance on how to use the right types of questions to gather information about an issue. Then, she explains how to professionally handle common customer service tasks, like escalating and transferring calls. Then, she shows how to hone interactions with customers by refining communications—acknowledging how tone and word choice can diffuse tension. She wraps up by covering common customer behavior scenarios in which the tools, techniques, and strategies from the course can be applied.
- Greeting and validating contacts
- Asking investigative and diagnostic questions
- Confirming and validating responses
- Reaching resolution and closure
- Using mute or hold on a call
- Escalating or transferring a call
- Building rapport over the phone, in writing, and face-to-face
- Refining word choice, style, and tone
- Managing conflict effectively
- Recovering unsatisfied customers
- Redirecting customers
- Identifying customer behavior