Posted by Gavin McMahon
March 3, 2015

  • twitter
  • facebook
  • instagram
  • google
  • mail

Employee + Customer

Are “polite” conversations ruining your numbers? Yes, probably. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Hear us out.

The [ASU “Customer Rage”] study shows 56 million American households experienced at least one problem during the past 12 months, and about $76 billion in revenue was at stake for the businesses involved.

Complaint handling is one of 5 top key drivers of brand loyalty and drives both revenue and efficiency when done right.

In 2013, Arizona State University’s School of Business did a study on “customer rage”, and what angry customers really want in order to feel satisfied.

Rage chart_Being Polite isn't enough


The results expose a misconception we have about what our customers want when they’re angry with our company. We think they want money. They don’t. They want you to have a conversation with them that conveys empathy, and understanding. When this happened, satisfaction doubled from 37 to 74 percent. This misconception is costing you a lot of money, and it’s hurting your business. .

Good conversations go further than saying “I’m sorry” in a disengaged tone, and handing out monetary compensation. Here’s how we build them.



Conversations can be very simple if you pay attention. Think about the most consistent recurring obstacles your organization has with your customers. The root is most likely not the technical problem, but rather the conversation.
Conversations involve both the problem and the person.
When you have a conversation with a customer where do you think you put most of your focus right now? The person, or the problem? (Be honest! There are no wrong answers here.) Right now, most of us don’t focus on both sides. We do what we’re trained to do: solve problems. What happens when we focus only on the problem though? We are not positioning the entire conversation (or solution) in the right way and the customer starts responding to that. They get anxious/frustrated/confused/entitled/many other escalated emotions, and you start losing them.

Courtesy Coin2

Let’s break it down even further. There are four essential components in building a successful conversation.

Coin_Polite2Be Polite: The Price of Entry

You can use polite words but that doesn’t mean you’re connecting. Scripts often tee up a lot of “I’m sorry, Ma’am/Sir”, “I hope I solved your problem” but without sincerity. They’re empty and your customer knows it. The conversation starts off on the wrong foot if you, the professional, are rude. Your customers react poorly to it, and any chance to build rapport is immediately sabotaged.
Establish respect in a conversation by being polite. It’s the price of entry.


Coin_Aware2Be Aware: Build Trust By Paying Attention

Customers know when you’re not engaged, and it sends a message that you don’t care. Customers don’t trust people who don’t care.

We have to listen. Why? Because it’s the fastest way to start building that trust and confidence. When you’re aware of what the customer is saying (and isn’t saying), you have the opportunity to find out more, and drive to the right resolution faster.


Coin_Concerned2Show Concern: Foster Cooperation Through Acknowledging the Situation

This is a critical step in establishing trust and building confidence: if a customer thinks you don’t get the gravity of the situation, they don’t trust that you’re going to work on their behalf.

So what can you do? Express empathy. Speak the customer’s language. Tell them you know this is causing them hassle.


.Coin_Willing2Be Willing: Create Loyalty Through Effort and Action

Sometimes we can’t solve the customers’ problem in the way they want us to. We can still leave them feeling good about the experience, though. How do we walk this tightrope of business policies and procedures that may tie our hands, while still going the extra mile for the customer? Use our knowledge to present options, find a way to take ownership and avoid saying “NO, I can’t”. Being willing is the most difficult aspect of the Courtesy Coin. It’s hard to do. However, if our customers know that we’re trying to work out options, they will be much more tolerant.


Solving problems for our customers is only a part of what makes them loyal to us. Having conversations that are polite, aware, concerned and willing is what they’re truly hoping for.




Bio_Tara P


Tara is Customer Experience Research Lead at fassforward Consulting Group. She blogs about Customer Experience at You can follow her on twitter @TaraPaluck. More at LinkedIn. Comments are welcome, links are appreciated. If you’re interested in writing guest posts for this blog, please contact me.

  • twitter
  • facebook
  • instagram
  • google
  • mail
Gavin McMahon

Gavin is a founding partner at fassforward consulting group. He blogs about PowerPoint, Presenting, Communication and Message Discipline at You can follow him on twitter @powerfulpoint.

More at Google+, Facebook and Pinterest. Comments are welcome, links are appreciated. If you're interested in writing guest posts for this blog, please contact me.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Zandra June 18, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Spot on with this write-up, I honestly believe this amazing site
needs far more attention. I’ll probably be back
again to see more, thanks for the information!