Frequently, at the beginning of my “Customer Service” training workshops I ask people, if they are likely to speak up and complain when they are unhappy with a product or service?
The answers I get vary greatly ranging from an assertive “absolutely, I am a paying customer” to the person who replies “sometimes, it depends” right through to someone who is very apprehensive to say anything at all.
What concerns me most is when people are afraid to speak up. As buyers, we are spending our hard-earned cash and deserve to be treated well. So, what is it that stops people from expressing how they feel?
When I ask this question, I get responses like they don’t want to cause a scene, get into a row, upset the service provider, annoy anyone around them or embarrass themselves.
There are always a number of people in this category. However, I am glad to say that more and more people are willing to speak out compared to years ago.
Growing up in the Ireland of old, many of us will remember a time when we were encouraged to 'put up or shut up'. People who spoke up were often seen as trouble makers or 'too big for their boots'. We became accustomed to this innate way of life. But thankfully we are living in a new Ireland – one that is dynamic, accepting and ever evolving.
Sometimes I feel the hangover of our dutiful behaviour still lingers and people are still afraid to have their say. They associate expressing themselves with having a confrontation or a row.
When we say nothing, we are being unfair to the service provider and to ourselves. If people don’t know we are unhappy – we are not giving them the chance to fix the problem. And if they do know we are dissatisfied, they may keep doing what they want because we are not speaking up or questioning them.
Sticking our head in the sand for a quiet life is not the answer. It’s also not good for our health. Stomach problems like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) are frequently associated with holding things in.
What we all need to remember is that most people have a boiling point and like a pendulum we will eventually swing from being submissive to being aggressive. This is the moment when we eventually explode and get angry. We may over-react, get into that row and even regret it later. It’s not the ideal solution and it’s fair to say most people don’t like these difficult situations.
In the words of the well-known Author Sharon Anthony Bower, “The biggest difference between assertive and being aggressive is how your words and behaviours affect the rights and well-being of others”.
The best thing any of us can do is realise our needs and opinions are equally as important as the other persons. We need to learn to speak up before we get too frustrated. By communicating in a reasonable and respectful way, both parties can gain so much more. We can learn to listen and connect with our customers, offer better levels of customer service and ultimately live happier and healthier lives.