• James Walton

Satisfied Customers Start with a Trusting Team

Bill Gates famously remarked that "bad news must travel fast." Your competitive advantage as an organization lies in your ability to identify and counteract areas of customer dissatisfaction.

To ensure your team can trust you with bad news, abide by this twin maxim:

  1. My team agrees to tell me anything

  2. I agree to not freak out

Here's why this is important: If your team is afraid you'll shoot the messenger, they're less likely to breach bad news. Your customers will suffer without your awareness, and you'll lose loyalty and revenue.

To become a leader your team can trust with bad news, display these behaviors:

  • Value curiosity over blame. Blame-seeking may be necessary in cases of intentional malpractice, but time spent litigating who's responsible for the past does nothing to provide a solution for the customer in the near future. Direct your efforts to defining the present challenge and deploying a solution. 

  • Interrogate the issue, not the person. Ask questions like: when did we first become aware of this? What steps have we taken to remedy this? How we can proactively communicate we're on it while a solution is being developed? In contrast, questions like: why you'd do that? or why didn't you tell me sooner? will almost always be perceived as an assault and will be met with defensiveness in the present and reluctance to surface negatives in the future.

  • Project equanimity. Something's wrong that's negatively impacting your customers. That's hard. You'll right to feel all sorts of strong emotions. But vent all those emotions with abandon and you'll quickly find those issues will disappear. Except they haven't. They've simply been forced underground where you won't know about them.

Creating satisfied customers starts with creating a environment of trust between you and your team.

Creating a space for bad news to be impartially examined is emotionally taxing. But the cost of creating an environment where no one feels free to voice bad news guarantees you won't have taxes to pay in the future. They're won't be any customers or profits left to pay them on.


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At Trellis Group, we believe chaos is the enemy of the small business. It's our mission to partner with small business owners and their teams to develop the managerial practices and processes to crush chaos. Revenues go up, anxiety goes down, and work becomes a force multiplier for good in the lives of your people. Reach out to discover how the Trellis Group can help you crush chaos.


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