Note: Any posted comments are subject to approval. 

The Importance of Being Flexible (aka Bending Over Backwards for Your Customers)

Feb 06, 2012

by Ginny Sutton, TSSA Executive Director

Two events occurred recently that made me stop and consider how important flexibility is when responding to customers’ concerns.

First, one of the association’s members called me to complain about her experience with another member, whom I won’t name—let’s just say it was a well-known industry supplier providing a technology-related service.  She voiced her frustration, saying she had been contacting the supplier for months about a problem she was having, and getting absolutely nowhere.  In frustration, she had finally fired off a vitriolic email, copying a large group of people she had identified as industry leaders.  The list was quite long, so lots of people got to see this individual’s rant about how she had been treated.

Ultimately, the issue was resolved, but not until dozens of emails had gone back and forth, and after a number of conversations with the complaining member and emails from the supplier. The fix for the problem was actually quite simple; adjusting a printer-setting adjustment, in fact, something that took just a few moments, fixed everything. Unfortunately, by that point, the member/customer was so frustrated that she was ready to scream about her mistreatment to anyone who would listen.

The same day, I talked to a manager who called for legal advice.  After I gave my usual “I’m not an attorney” disclaimer, we talked a while.  Though there were many details to the situation as she described her lawsuit-threatening customer, the bottom line was this: the facility manager had been quite rigid, and downright inflexible when asked to accommodate a simple request.  This angered the self-storage customer so much that he decided to hire an attorney over something relatively trivial.

Sounding, even to myself, like an old coot, I pondered aloud, “What is wrong with people today?  What has happened to customer service?”  Our philosophy at TSSA is that members should never leave any interaction with us unhappy if we can help it.  Being flexible in difficult situations, and bending over backwards when members need something a little bit out of the norm, seems to make all the difference.

I recently discovered yoga.  Though tough when you attempt it for the first time, yoga and stretching are undeniably good for you, and ultimately make you happier, healthier and more flexible.  Let’s remember to practice good business sense, and what I think of “mental yoga,” being flexible and trying to think creatively, especially when it comes to dealing with our customers. It will help you avoid a great deal of pain.