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Encouraging customers to provide feedback can create a platform for addressing concerns before they escalate to negative reviews. | Source: Shutterstock
Encouraging customers to provide feedback can create a platform for addressing concerns before they escalate to negative reviews. | Source: Shutterstock

Turn your negative reviews into positive experiences

Even the best businesses must deal with negative feedback from time to time. DALE FURTWENGLER explains how you can avoid making a bad situation worse with conflict resolution.

In the jewellery trade, customers can be fickle and difficult to please. These same customers often have no issue airing their grievances online either, which can be heart-breaking for store owners and hard-working sales staff. 

Over the years I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to do a program on conflict resolution; however, I’ve always refused.

It’s too late - conflict already exists! Instead, I offer a program on conflict prevention. In other words, I prefer getting ahead of the curve. Why wait for a problem to surface to fix it when you can avoid the problem?

It’s important to remember that nothing works 100 per cent of the time. There must be a party on the other side of the potential conflict who also desires to avoid conflict. If someone is begging for a fight, there’s little that can be done to avoid conflict other than walking away.

Any retailer knows that sometimes you have no choice but to deal with one of these kinds of difficult customers. With that said, consider the following pointers on preventing unhappy customers from spreading their negativity to others. 

Disagreement
"None of us likes admitting we’re wrong because we fear losing the trust and confidence others have in us, so we resist."

It’s important to learn how to disagree with someone without creating resistance that could escalate to conflict.

Our natural tendency when we disagree with someone is to use facts and logic to show them the error of their thinking. None of us likes admitting we’re wrong because we fear losing the trust and confidence others have in us, so we resist.

The more we resist the more adamant the other party becomes in proving us wrong until the exchange devolves into conflict.

You can avoid this potential for conflict by asking questions such as:

  • How does that work when…?
  • What would happen if…?
  • How would that work in this [situation]?
  • Is it true that…?
  • Could we…?

By adding these simple phrases to the beginning of whatever you were going to say, you avoid disagreeing with what the person said. Instead, you ask an exploratory question.

The result is that the person reflects on their thinking and, if you’re correct in your thinking, hopefully reaches the same conclusion you have with the added advantage that they validate their new conclusion with their own experiences.

Not only is conflict avoided with this approach, but the other person is also more likely to embrace your idea and act on it because they’ve validated it with their experiences. There is one other element that is essential to the success of this approach. You must be willing to consider that you’re wrong in your assessment of the situation.

When the response to your question indicates that you have overlooked a key element to the solution, you have to be willing to acknowledge that and embrace the other person’s position.

Acknowledge your contribution

As you find your interaction with others devolving into conflict, take a moment to reflect on how this tension has arisen. 

"Training yourself to suspend judgment not only helps you avoid conflict, it creates an attitude of mutual respect and consideration for all parties involved."

Ask yourself: How have I contributed to this escalation? If applicable, readily admit your contribution to the problem. The majority of the time you’ll find that the walls of defense crumble and the other party will say “I could have handled that better myself.”

The result is an avoidance of conflict with the added bonuses of a mutually agreeable solution and a retained, if not strengthened, relationship with the other party.

Suspending judgment

Many conflicts arise because we judge what someone has done as either good or bad. We may even have extended that judgment to the person.

These judgements are emotional reactions that cannot be prevented; they occur automatically in response to what we’re experiencing.

When you feel yourself judging others or what they’ve done, take a moment.

Allow the emotion to subside - this will enable you to suspend judgment so that you can deal with the person in a manner that is respectful, yet enables you to set boundaries on what behaviours are acceptable and which are not. 

Training yourself to suspend judgment not only helps you avoid conflict, it creates an attitude of mutual respect and consideration for all parties involved.

Deflected pain

Earlier, I mentioned situations in which one party is spoiling for a fight. I suggested that you may have to walk away to avoid conflict.

Before you walk away, realise that many people who are wanting to fight, or inflict emotional pain upon you, are in pain themselves. They are deflecting their own pain in hopes of mitigating it.

Remember that with practice your mind will be capable of moving through these resolution tactics with lightning speed.

Once you’ve identified which of these will help you avoid conflict, employ it. You’ll be thrilled with the result.

More reading:
How do you treat your customers after they leave?
Quality customer service always beats out pricing
Perception is the name of our game
Don’t be afraid to break the rules
Diving deep into the personality traits of great business leaders

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dale Furtwengler

Founder • Furtwengler & Associates

Dale Furtwengler is the founder of Furtwengler & Associates. Hs is a speaker, author and business consultant. Learn more: pricingforprofitbook.com

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