Choose between Being Right and Being in RelationshipMost small business stewards provide customer service as well as receive customer service as part of wearing many hats.

I really appreciate being on both ends of giving and receiving as each encounter is an opportunity to learn, to adapt, to change, and to improve.

Part of that picture is hearing and seeing something you know makes sense and is true, and then growing into it (i.e. I know, I know… but don’t do… then ah ha… put it in action, silly).

One of the customer service 101 lessons involves being technically correct, but presenting the situation in a way that devalues the relationship.

In every relationship, you have choices. You can chose to always be right (i.e. technically correct), or you can choose to be in a relationship. If you value long term relationships like me, you will do your best to focus on the relationship rather than who is right and how often.

Every encounter you have with your customers, your employees, your partners is an opportunity for you to establish (or re-establish) relationship values or diminish them. The more they are diminished, the more likely the relationship will end.

Let me give you two examples. First is on the giving end, the second on the receiving end.

A customer puts in a support ticket about Spam Assassin incorrectly tagging valid email as being suspected as spam. In the email, the customer also complains about higher than normal real spam getting through.

A technically correct response might go into explaining Spam Assassins scoring mechanism, about white listing and how white listing only lowers the chance about tagging, etc. as well as just telling the customer to forward the actual spam that got through to the anti-spam appliance engineers.

A customer relationship response is to call the customer on the phone to go over the Spam Assassin settings, ask if it is ok to outright disable Spam Assassin (duplication of anti-spam — and in the particular case only tagging incorrectly), as well as go over the differences between the anti-spam appliance and Spam Assassin, the benefit of training the system. Plus empathizing with the customer for the spam that does get through by both disliking spam as well as sharing no system is perfect including our own anti-spam system.

The phone call also allowed a check in on an upcoming trip the client is looking forward to taking along with making sure the customer understands how much they are valued as a customer.

On the receiving end, I tend to perform backups more than the average person knowing the value of having a recent backup over an old backup or no backup at all. Some of the backups I take cover plan B and plan C for data recovery (do you have multiple plans for recover in case your primary plan doesn’t work as intended?).

One of the backup methods started failing, and I opened a ticket with the data center whose private network I was using to do the backup to see if they could help.

All of the initial responses were technically correct. Yet, all of them ended with, if you don’t respond within four days, the ticket will close. The problem still existed. I persisted and literally asked for a hero to step up to the plate (I’m sharing this because my personal feelings is that not all customers will be patient and ask for a hero when there appears to be no hero; they may just move on). The partner did step it up several notches, and moved from being technically correct to providing alternatives, in depth responses as well as viable alternatives and a phone call.

They were also open to passing along to the entire team about the differences between being right (technically correct) and being right plus promoting the relationship.

Please consider the following thoughts:

  • You are in various relationships between family, friends, work, et al.
  • Those relationships do matter.
  • Does it matter who is right how often or does it matter more to have a long lasting relationship?
  • As you respond to parties in your relationship is your focus about keeping and improving the relationship because the other party matters?
  • What can you do daily to step up to the plate and be a hero?

What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.