- The empathizer listens sympathetically and takes time to understand the whole situation.
- The hard worker finds out what store procedures fit the situation and then strictly adheres to those.
- The controller takes charge of the conversation, promptly and decisively proposing a solution.
- The accommodator eagerly offers discounts or refunds until the customer is satisfied.
I listed the four in order of prevalence in the CEB sample. About 32% were empathizers, and about 11% were accommodators. The measures used by the researchers to determine what type did best included the time to resolve the issue and the customer’s reported satisfaction with the resolution.
The researchers report that when managers were asked which type they thought would do best, the empathizer won the vote. That no doubt accounts for why this was the most frequent type in organizations. But according to the metrics, the type that did best was not the empathizer, but instead the controller. The researchers explain this by saying, “Customers don’t want an apology, they want a solution.”
Based on my review of other research, I’d advise you, retailer, that disgruntled customers want both an apology and a solution from you, not only one or the other. For instance, researchers from Chinese University of Hong Kong and Fudan University in China found that empathy toward customers influenced satisfaction to a greater extent than did service outcome factors, such how well the clothes dryer works after being repaired or if the cruise ship vacation met expectations.
The CEB study was of call center staff. Your in-store staff who handle complaints are usually conversing face-to-face, not over the phone, and should be aiming to develop and maintain a lasting sales relationship with the customer, not just a dialogue for the duration of the complaint resolution. Still, the CEB study reminds us of the value of decisive action with the disgruntled.
For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers
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