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This will prevent your people from getting defensive
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This will prevent your people from getting defensive

Towards a royal service in Soestdijk

That a customer complaint is an opportunity should not be a secret. Especially in a business where the experience of guests, such as pop concerts, is paramount. Yet, it always proves challenging not to become defensive. Discover how your organization arms itself against this.

‘Special summer evening concerts in a historic location where enjoyment takes precedence.’ This is how the organizer of Royal Park Soestdijk promotes its concerts in the palace gardens that we all know. According to the website, ‘the royal heritage welcomes us with open arms’. 

The reality turns out to be slightly less enchanting than advertised. The visit to the Van Morrison concert starts off well. My companions and I are excited, and so are the weather gods. Upon arrival, parking attendants guide us to a large parking lot smoothly.

Not amused

However, as we step out of the car, we realize that it’s quite a journey from the parking lot to the entrance. We ask the parking attendant, “How long is the walk?” He replies: “Five minutes.” We feel relieved, but still, we are not entirely convinced.

We ask him again if he’s sure because walking is difficult for one person in our group. We consider taking him to the entrance first or calling a taxi. “No, that’s not necessary. It’s really just a five-minute walk,” assures the parking attendant. But, as you can probably guess, nothing could be further from the truth: the journey takes more than twenty minutes.

When we finally reach the entrance checkpoint for ticket and bag inspection, we are not amused. However, I decide to channel my frustration into positive energy. After scanning our tickets, I gather the courage to give a tip to the bag inspector: “It would be nice if your colleagues could inform people that the walk from the parking lot is not five minutes but certainly twenty minutes.” I manage to say this calmly but reasonably loudly.

As an employee of an organization, when faced with a complaint, you have a choice: defense or improvement.

Rose-Marie Manders

A cold shower

Then follows a cold shower. The lady who just scanned my ticket doesn’t give the bag inspector a chance to respond. She loudly and clearly exclaims, “Ma’am, we really can’t do anything about that. We are from security, not from the organization.” Well, that was quite foolish of me as a customer, of course…

Fortunately, the bag inspector remains calm. After the lady at the scanner has calmed down, he asks if he can give me a tip. Of course, I would appreciate it… He kindly requests that I provide the feedback through the Royal Park website, so that it reaches the right place. I thank him for his advice. My feeling of irritation disappears.

Going with the flow and offering solutions

As you can see, as an employee of an organization, you have a choice when it comes to a complaint: defense or improvement. In practice, most employees tend to lean towards the former. However, it really helps to first empathize with the customer and then provide possible solutions!

Improving instead of defending may sound simple, but it is not always ingrained in the Dutch nature. However, you can change that by creating awareness among your employees. Train them in solution-oriented thinking and working. Illustrate the most common practical situations they may encounter. And let them experience firsthand how they can turn all complaints around in four simple steps. This way, they will realize the effectiveness of an improvement-focused attitude when dealing with customers.

Anyone who is curious can adopt this solution-oriented mentality. If enough people do so, it will create a positive atmosphere, and customers will notice the difference. However, it is essential that the rest of your organization collaborates in finding solutions and provides feedback to the complainants.

Coach

By the way, I could not resist going back to the lady who scanned my ticket before the concert in Soestdijk. I told her that it would have been better if she hadn’t made that comment and had left it to the bag inspector. I guess I will always be a coach…

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