Visit my Facebook page

I post on this blog about twice a month. I post on my facebook page several times a week with tips, appropriate quotes and ways to support your increased assertive behavior. Please visit my facebook page (and please "like" it, if you do)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Secrets to Resolving your Complaints with Customer Service: First Time, Every Time

Would you like to return the dress that is the wrong color or to complain about a mistake on your telephone bill?

Trying to resolve a consumer problem can seem overwhelming. In fact, addressing a complaint as a consumer is a matter of learning the formula for success and applying it often. Approaching the task in an assertive manner provides the foundation for a good outcome.

Seven secrets to successful complaint resolution:

1. Be prepared.

Think of what the store clerk will need and take it with you. For example:
  • Do you have a receipt for the purchase?
  • Do you have a copy of your check or your credit card receipt
Paying for purchases with a credit or debit card provides you with indisputable proof of purchase as well as provides a vehicle for easy return of your money.

2. Begin your conversation pleasantly

Remember that the foundation of assertiveness is an attitude of respect. Approach the clerk with a pleasant look on your face.

Say, "Hello, how are you?" and extend your hand in friendship.

Do not start with "Excuse me," or "I'm sorry, but I need to talk to you."

Making an apology to get attention simply takes away from your power and claims a one-down position. If you want the clerk's attention, use his/her name (you can read it on his/her name tag) or say "Sir..." or "Ma'am, I need to talk to you about this item.

3. Stand or sit at an angle

Confrontation, according to the dictionary, means a face-to-face meeting.

If you stand directly in front of the person to whom you wish to speak, he/she will experience your behavior as angry and confrontive. However, if you wish to convey respect in your assertion, then stand at an angle to the other person.

The angle conveys, "I am free to walk away from this interaction, as are you." Respect for the other person includes our recognition of his/her choice to talk with us and his/her freedom not to talk with us.

4. Use empathic statements

Connection works more effectively than confrontation. We achieve a connection with the other person by letting them know how we imagine it might be to bein their shoes.

An empathic statement to the sales clerk might sound like this, "You seem really busy today, Mrs. Smith, and I imagine that it isn't pleasant to deal with the return of items, but I need to return this dress because it is the wrong color.

Since you made an effort to understand how Mrs. Smith must feel today, she will be more likely to help you.

5. Speak in a well-modulated tone of voice

Keep your voice moderate in tone and volume. Speak so that your words go down at the end of the sentence.

If you allow the pitch of your voice to go up at the end of the sentence, you will sound unsure of yourself and your response will sound more like a question than a statement.

To the waiter: "This is not the salad I ordered," with "ordered" going to the lowest tone in the sentence.

6. Make statements. Don't ask questions.
  • A statement sounds positive and powerful.
  • A question interjects doubt.
"I want to return this waffle baker" is more powerful than "Is it OK for me to return this waffle baker?"

Avoid qualifiers such as "I hope this isn't too much trouble, but I want to return this waffle baker."

An implied question takes away power as well, "I want to return this waffle baker, OK?"

7. Follow-up

If you get good cooperation from an employee or a company, follow up with a thank-you letter or a note of commendation.

you had a difficult time of it, also follow-up with a letter, detailing the reasons for your dissatisfaction. These letters will help you practice assertiveness and often bring results from the company.

Practice these steps every time an opportunity comes your way. Taking the right steps makes complaining a breeze and positive results more likely.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Speaking Up When a Response is not Required

Much of the time when we speak up for ourselves, the goal is to get something to happen that we want to happen. Sometimes, however, a soft assertion is a valuable way to speak up for yourself.

A soft assertion by definition is taking a stand when you do not require a response. This can be as simple as wearing a t-shirt with a slogan on it such as "Atlanta Braves." The shirt tells the world that you support the Atlanta baseball team. You don't expect people to respond to the shirt, but you are sending a message, all the same.

A soft assertion can be a compliment. When I give a compliment, I am taking a risk. The recipient of the compliment can accept my gift (the compliment) and simply say thank you. Occasionally someone will reject your compliment: "Oh, this old thing? I've had it for years."

Today I was driving home from the N. Georgia mountains with a quarter of a tank of gas. I knew I should fill up my car. There's a gas station between Clarkesville, GA and Cleveland, GA that always has comparatively low gas prices. I haven't stopped there before but decided that I had enough gas to get there before filling up today.

It's Labor Day so there are lots of people on the road. I like to take what I call the "pretty way" home which involves only about 1/3 of the trip on Interstate roads. The rest of the trip is on pretty country roads. I took that today and easily got to the gas station between Clarkesville and Cleveland.

As I pulled into the station , the prices were predictably low for the area ($2.38/gal compared to the usual $2.48 everywhere else). I drove up to the pump to find a white hand-written sign the size of a piece of typing paper taped to the front of the pump. I couldn't read the ball-point pen writing and decided that pump was probably out of gas at those low prices.

I pulled to the second pump which had the same sign taped to it. I stopped, opened my gas tank, and got out of the car. The sign in small handwriting in ball point pen actually said, "Fishing supplies inside."

When I went in to the gas station store to get my receipt, I used a soft assertion with the station manager. "Sir, those signs taped to the pumps are very hard to read. I thought they meant that the pumps were out of gas and almost didn't stop. I couldn't read that they said "Fishing supplies inside" until I got out of the car."

He actually replied, "Well, I don't have any more signs." (not sure what he meant - that he couldn't re-do them or that he didn't have another way to advertise his fishing supplies???)

I said, "Well, since I almost didn't stop and probably I won't be the only confused person today, I thought you'd want to know."

Since a response is not required to a soft assertion - it doesn't make any difference to me whether he changes the signs or not - I smiled, thanked him for the receipt, and went out the door.