Got business problems or challenges at work? With his Two Cents page, Loaay Ahmed shares his expertise in strategic management consulting to help managers, employees and entrepreneurs thrive.
Q: What is an effective way to deal with an upset customer when you just can’t give them what they want?
Whoever is facing the customers must be empowered to solve their problems or at least have direct access to someone who can. If the latter is an option for you and assuming you don’t have your own procedure on how to handle such situations, keep the following steps in mind: (1) Genuinely apologize for not being able to solve their issue. Pay close attention to your tone and your choice of words. Customers can’t read your face over the phone. (2) Explain to the customer honestly why the other person is more suited to solve their issue. (3) Assure the customer that they won’t need to repeat themselves to the other person by making sure that you explain the customer’s needs to your colleague or manager. Let them know that this is what you will do when you put them on hold. (4) Before transferring the customer to your colleague, ask if they prefer or feel more comfortable if you follow up with them at a later time so you can chase it internally from your end and update them in case it wasn’t solved. (5) Talk to your management to see how to avoid a similar problem from happening again to you or to other colleagues. Make suggestions when you approach management; it shows initiative. By using this approach, you show empathy for their situation and focus on ways moving forward even if you personally can’t solve their problem directly. This is much better than apologizing and hoping that the customer ends the call without proceeding to give your business negative publicity. Remember, you can’t stop people from getting angry but you can control how you handle it…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: We regularly receive complaints about our restaurant’s delivery staff. We can’t hire university graduates to deliver food so that customers are impressed and happy. How can we improve customers’ experiences without breaking our budget?
One of the basketball teams has an opening for one more player before the NBA season is about to start and for some reason they hired you. If you’ve never played the game except maybe in a video game, chances are your performance will be lousy and the fans will boo you off the court. Not much fun, is it? If the delivery staff you hire is not suitable for the job, it’s not entirely their fault. The best way to avoid employees making terrible mistakes is to hire the right people. If your new delivery hire is not familiar with the areas you send him to or if he just got his driving license and is uncomfortable on the road, it’s not much of a surprise when customers call to complain about delivery delays. So the key here is to establish a standard of who fits and who doesn’t. That’s more important than affordability.
To become a taxi driver in London one must learn by heart all the ins and outs of 25,000 streets. Your standard may include area knowledge tests; physical shadowing while driving to see driving style; language assessments; money handling techniques; health and safety; basic communication training about common situations, the brand, menus, and promos; and a business mobile phone line with a package so it doesn’t cost you much – there are good telecom deals; shop around. Find ways to pass all that information to your staff using pictures and recorded in-house videos in their languages. Why? Because while it might be only food delivery, your customers see your entire business through that interaction, which will impact their decision on whether or not to order from you again…and that’s just my two cents.
Q: Since my daughter’s birth six years ago I’ve been out of touch with the corporate world. I now feel the need to work again but I don’t know where and how to start. Any tips?
The concerns for many employers hiring someone who’s not been working for a few years are mainly about issues like market knowledge, awareness of new technologies, connections, and the mental sharpness to pursue objectives. Your first goal is to show that you have all those areas under control. Once that’s done, call your old business contacts, friends, and family members to ask them for advice on where you can apply and to open doors if possible, but no matter what you say to them, don’t ask for a job where they work unless they offer. This is important for the sake of keeping your relationships strong and to avoid the awkwardness of being ‘nicely’ rejected by someone you know. It’s probably best not to work closely with friends or family; many people don’t know how to separate between work and private life.
If you have good experience in any field, shortlist a few companies you’re interested in and talk to HR about their current employees’ training needs. If any of it falls under your area of expertise, put together the material for a two-hour workshop and offer it to them as free training. The benefit of this approach is that it will gain you some new contacts and gives management a chance to see you in action or at least know of you. It’s also a good mental exercise for getting back into a working mood and momentum. Many shark species constantly move (even when sleeping) to breathe. When you spread the word about your comeback, update your knowledge, network, follow industry news and put yourself out there you will create enough energy to be considered for an interview…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected]. Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management adviser and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.