Dealing with customers and co-workers and be stressful but it doesn’t have to be. You may need to take a moment to see their side of the issue(s) and begin to ask yourself the questions of “what, why, when and who” and now is the time to consider the four W’s:

What happened or is going on? Work to establish “what” occurred. This may or may not be the easiest part of the situation to establish. You have to look at the situation and figure out exactly what occurred and if possible why this situation is going on. Is the customer or employee just upset because they legitimately have an issue or are they having a bad day? Or, is this an incredibly serious situation that they have every right to be frustrated at? Asking the right question(s) to get the “what” is key to beginning to understanding the situation. Additionally, carefully listen to the customer and fully understand what they are saying. You may need to slow them down or have them repeat what they have said. Once you understand what the reason is you can then move to the next question.

Why does the customer or employee feel this way? Do they feel they have been misinformed about something? If it is a customer, it is possible that they were told something different would happen it did not and now they feel they are being given the run around. This could be a simple misunderstanding but it could be giving them a false impression of your company. Sometimes, the why is the hardest part of the puzzle to figure out but it is just as important as the “what”. Asking the questions and listening to them will help you to determine how to “read” what the person is saying to you and to find the most effective resolution.

When did this begin to become a problem? Are they mad about something recent, old, or just something repetitive? Generally speaking I tell my clients that if there is something wrong with a job they are working on and the customer is upset it is almost always about something that happened earlier (poor planning and scheduling for instance) and has been simmering for some time. No matter what the answer is you need to see why they are bringing it up, if it is something that was old or repetitive, find out why this hasn’t been solved and what you need to do to solve the issue.

Who is the customer or employee blaming and why are they blaming this person? It could be that they are blaming their second cousin twice removed who came in before you did and ended up screwing up the situation more. Maybe it could be that they are actually frustrated with someone that you employ or a subcontractor because of something they did. Go back to listening. When you listen, invariably, the customer or employee will use the terms “they said” or “he/she said”. As you listen hear the detail behind what they are saying and work to derive the specifics of who they are talking about.

Once you have all these bases covered express to your customer or employee that you understand. Many times after you have spoken to them you will have to do some research by talking to others about what happened. Let them know that you will have a response to them in a “set timeframe”; for instance if you think that you can resolved this in a day tell them a day, but if this will substantially take more time then tell them 2 or 3 days (in other words, don’t over promise and under deliver). Set a time when you can reconnect with them. Yes, sometimes they will want an answer right then and there; it’s perfectly fine to say something along the lines that you would like to resolve it, but you want to make sure they are fully satisfied so please allow the time to come up with a resolution that would work for both sides.

No matter what you must always watch your body language and remain relaxed. Remember that people can hear the tone of your voice. If you are exasperated, they will know it. Don’t lose your temper or “mouth off to them” or cop an attitude. Always remember to “maintain your calm”. These are some of the best ways to make sure that your customers and employees see you as a strong Leader and will trust doing business with you in the future.

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