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6. Videoconference or Face-to-Face Meeting?

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
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CHAPTER ELEVEN: STRATEGIES FOR HANDLING COMPLAINTS

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

This chapter suggests ten strategies for working with the emotional dynamics of complaints so effective handling can strengthen connections with customers.

Complaint handlers are best advised to phrase their initial responses to complaining customers with emotional words.

In their book, A Complaint Is a Gift, Barlow and Møller recommend that complaint handlers shift their paradigm about complaints and see them as “gifts,” rather than as nuisances, attacks, or whatever other negative views are held about complaints. When people are given gifts, they typically say “Thank you,” whether they like the gift or not. Barlow and Møller, in their eight-step “Gift Formula” (see Appendix E), advise service providers to first thank customers for their feedback and then offer an apology. In other words, complaint handlers can be more effective if they phrase their initial responses to complaining customers with emotional words. The complaint 180handler should then, and only then, proceed to gather whatever information is necessary to solve the customers’ issues.

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CHAPTER FOUR: EMOTIONAL LABOR OR EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE?

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Maureen O’Hara sits in an old-fashioned office chair, dressed all in black, looking resolute as she is interviewed for the brisk-selling business magazine The Fast Company. Dean of faculty at San Francisco’s Saybrook Graduate School and postmodern psychologist par excellence, Dr. O’Hara makes a strong case for the necessity of emotional skills at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Everyone must become a student of human nature in all its glorious complexity. Exercising new psychological muscles—tolerance, flexibility, empathy— becomes part of developing competence at work.1

Exercising new psychological muscles—tolerance, flexibility, empathy— becomes part of developing competence at work.

Contrast this message with that of Arlie Russell Hochschild in The Managed Heart, as she discusses emotional labor:

This [emotional] labor requires one to induce or suppress feelings in order to sustain the outward countenance 64that produces the proper state of mind in others—in this case, the sense of being cared for in a convivial and safe place.2

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3. Limitations of Videoconferences

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

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No one believes or even suggests that videoconferences will replace face-to-face meetings. In fact, some people even doubt that this medium will be as widely accepted as we may first think. Their voices need to be heard in order for us to understand exactly how videoconferencing can add value to the mix of communication tools we currently use. The negative viewpoints will help us to think more clearly about maximizing the effective use of videoconferencing.

A common point of view is that videoconferencing will add value by supplementing telephone and written communication when more human connectivity is desired or required and in-person meetings are not possible or are too time consuming or expensive. Videoconferencing will sit between telephone and in-person meetings as another communication tool available to businesspeople.

Chuck House with Intel, for example, suggests that substituting a videoconference for an in-person meeting might be worse than skipping some meetings altogether. “Consistent remote attendance heightens frustration, builds alienation, and serves to segregate more often than integrate the remote attendee.”12 House’s point is worth considering.

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CHAPTER TEN: FUNDAMENTALS OF COMPLAINTS

Barlow, Janelle Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The last thirty years has seen a blossoming of research about complaints, some conducted by consulting firms and a great deal more by marketing university professors (see Appendix D). Results definitely vary from one research study to another. Nonetheless, common patterns present themselves throughout the multitudinous studies. These patterns, which we discuss in this chapter, include the following:

Customers talk about bad service to just about everyone, but they rarely complain formally.

Customers talk about bad service to just about everyone, but they rarely formally complain. Complaint statistics, which differ depending upon the research study, are all bad and suggest 174that somewhere from 40 percent to 96 percent of customers do not speak up to someone who can actually do something about their complaints. The percentage range depends upon the type of customer, the severity of the problem, and the accessibility of complaint opportunities—and whether customers believe anything will happen as a result of their complaints. Even when extreme dissatisfaction is experienced, many customers do not complain: 49.6 percent for nondurable products; 29.4 percent for durable products, and 23.2 percent for services, according to one study.1 It can become almost pitiful. Megafax, a New York research company, surveyed thirty thousand utility companies between 1991 and 1995. Some were so bad at complaint handling that customers wouldn’t even call to say that they had lost power!2

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