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Shawna Schuh

To Get to the Bottom of a Complaint, Pause, Smile and Ask

When a customer lies, it may not be for the reasons you think.

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THE RESTAURANT IS a favorite of mine. The food is good, and it’s fun and kinda funky. When we sat down to meet for this first date, I had no expectations. The conversation was fast and fun, and so we decided to order dinner. He ordered a burger and fries, me a salad.

When the food came, the female server set it down with a flourish, and it looked great. I barely had a moment to admire my salad when the man sitting opposite me said, “The fries are cold.”

The server was momentarily stunned but quickly recovered and said, “I’ll bring you new ones.” And she hightailed it out of there to have a word with the kitchen.

There was a pause, so I said, “I’m so sorry you got a bad order, this place is usually great.” Because, of course, I’m feeling bad for suggesting a place that, it turns out, serves cold food. What does that say about my taste and judgment?

Then he said, “No worries, the fries aren’t really cold. There’s just not enough, so now they’ll bring more.”

I blinked in stunned silence and then gathering my wits about me asked, “Do you do this often?” To which he said, “Only when I think I’ve been shorted on something.”

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Think about this for a moment. Where do you land on the right or wrong of this exchange?

As a consumer, you might agree that if you feel shorted in service, or product, or value, it’s within your rights to complain or ask … but to lie?

As a business owner, you may feel outraged and taken advantage of by a customer who is clearly misleading you or your team for additional gain.

Here’s my take from a leadership standpoint:

  • Pause to take a breath. This can allow you to get emotions in check.
  • Smile. This may be forced — after all, they are bringing up a complaint.
  • Ask a question. This is the best thing however only if it’s a question that still makes the customer feel in control (rather than wrong), and it clarifies the real issue.

The example in this instance may have been that the server could have paused, smiled and asked, “Do you want me to replace them?”

Since the answer is most likely yes, then take the whole meal away.

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If you get pushback — “It’s OK, just bring me more fries” — this is when you know the real intent behind the comment, and you can say, “If the fries (or whatever the complaint is) are not to your liking, we must check your whole meal so you are completely satisfied.”

If you have a pet business, you’re not selling fries, of course. However, you do have some customers who are hard to satisfy, and they can surprise you or take advantage of you, all the while feeling justified in doing so. Luckily, the same techniques will work: Pause, smile, ask a question.

Think about and discuss with your team the kinds of questions that are able to get to the bottom of the issue (or customer intent) without making the customer feel wrong.

For me, I learned several things that evening, the most important being to put myself in the position of both the customer and the business owner. If all of us did that more, maybe the experience for everyone would be better.

Shawna Schuh is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic program- ming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at shawna@womeninthepetindustry.com.

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Shawna Schuh

True Leaders Learn the Skills of Telling, Selling and Asking

Beware the overshare.

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IN AN INTERVIEW FOR a new team member, we sat down and began some preliminary chit-chat.

Admittedly, I am a curious sort; I ask more questions than most. It’s my job, after all, as a leadership coach, so when I began by asking, “Tell me a little about yourself.” I did not expect to hear what I did: The interviewee went on to share and to overshare. We found out about her marriage history, abuse, blended families, a home lost by the recession and what was wrong with her last employer.

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She was talking too much for us to ask additional questions.

According to her resume, she had the skills we needed, but we decided we wouldn’t hire her because of her oversharing habit.

Oversharing lost her the job. Over-sharing can lose you customers, too.

What is a leader to do? Well, first, be sure you aren’t the one who overshares.

My coaching clients learn early that most leaders do three things often.

1. They tell. Usually, leaders are telling their team how to do things, what the vision is, how to handle customers. Leaders tell and tell and tell. They do this because they are the ones in the know. They are making the decisions, and to be good communicators, they tell their teams.

2. They sell. This is one most leaders don’t realize they are doing, but they do it all the time. After all, you want your team bought into your vision, and you want people to get excited. Leaders are the most knowledgeable about the product or business, and most started by selling so they sell.

When you are telling and selling, sometimes you forget and overshare. Leaders get zealous about things and sometimes that leads to oversharing.
What can you do to stop yourself from the overshare? What would have helped the interviewee land the job?

3. They ask. Leaders learn to be expert askers. When you ask questions, many wonderful things happen: The people you ask questions feel valued — like their opinion matters. You learn something. And you allow others to talk, which means you aren’t talking or oversharing.

To become an expert asker, all you need do is, of course, ask questions. This is a simple concept like dieting, and, like dieting, usually not easy.

Here are two questions most any leader or anyone will benefit from asking:

What is it you want?

This question helps the other person define their goals. For customers, it helps you help them. Note: Be prepared for some silence, a lot of people really don’t know what they want. If they are quiet, simply smile and ask them something else like, “What makes you happiest?”

What can I do for you?

This question gets to the core of need. It also shows them that you are focused on them. That’s the beauty of questions: They are outward focused, and when you are outward focused, it helps you be the kind of leader, teammate, partner, a parent that others want to be around.

If nothing else, please think before you overshare!

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Shawna Schuh

3 Words to Project Calm and Give Yourself Time to Think

When you find life, people, pets — anything — interesting, you’ll find your life more interesting…

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AS A LEADER, what is your reaction to upsets, incidents, challenges and changes?

I like to think I keep a cool head and open mind, and I hope I do. However, recently when I was working with a client, I noticed something she does that is effective and helps her move through things in not only a more professional way, but in a way that allows deeper learning.

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Her way is to look at everything as if it’s a puzzle or something to figure out, dissect and alter. This is a new way of thinking and being that will help you.

My client, when confronted with something new, or an issue, or even a correction, will pause for a moment, then comment, “Isn’t that interesting …,” as she allows her mind to work.

This does several things you can use too.

First, it shifts the energy from shock, dismay or any reaction that is negative, to one of curiosity and inquiry. The mere idea that anything new or presented is “interesting” makes it so.

Many people react with “That’s terrible!” or “Oh no!” or pure disbelief. This reaction, though common, puts the energy in a downward spiral. It becomes something to fix rather than something to learn from.

When you say to yourself or out loud, “Isn’t that interesting ….” You look at it differently, and you feel differently about it. The best part is, you begin to explore ways to work through things or seek the lessons in what has happened.

Making everything that is said or done, “interesting” shifts anyone else involved away from fear or turns excuses into calm and curiosity.

If in another’s mind they can think, “OK, not angry, not upset, just ‘interested,’” think how much easier it will be to work things through.

You can also use “interesting” to pave the way for new creative thinking.

Phrases that help creativity:

  • “What’s interesting about this is …”
  • “The interesting thing it seems is …”
  • “What do you think is interesting about this?”

When you find life, people, pets — anything — interesting, you’ll find your life more interesting, and you will come up with more creative — and yes, interesting — solutions. And a leader who uses “Isn’t that interesting …” in the face of a challenge or bad news has an immediate advantage by allowing others to relax, and by giving you time to think and find creative solutions.

Isn’t that interesting?

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Shawna Schuh

Control or Trust? The Two Don’t Have to Be Mutually Exclusive

How do we put our trust in people we don’t know well?

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A MAN I RECENTLY met invited me to go for a cruise behind him on his 1,000-pound touring Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

This would be the first time I did something like this, and the trip was a big loop over to the Oregon coast over two-lane winding roads and through dense forests and gorgeous landscape.

In a car it’s great, and I thought on the back of a motorcycle it would be a wonderful adventure.

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This article is about the difference between control and trust, something that I grappled with the minute he zipped me into leather chaps, and a high-tech helmet we could converse through while riding. He instructed me about the perils of wiggling, sudden movements and keeping balanced.

I realized I had absolutely no control over this situation.

I was a passenger, extra weight on an already heavy bike, and I could pose a challenge that could end both of our lives.

Yes, I still got on.

When you are hiring someone or when you are taking on a new vendor or when you agree to advertise, how do you feel? Like you want to control the outcome, or that you will trust the process?

This is a great question to ask yourself. Believe me, I was asking myself this exact question a variety of times over the five hours we did the loop.

“Am I feeling anxious because I’m not driving this? Because I don’t have control of the bike?” My answer was: “That isn’t it. I don’t have control of planes, trains or autos I’m a passenger in.”

“Am I feeling anxious because I don’t trust this driver?” This I think is the key to a lot of what we do in business. How do we put our trust in people we don’t know well? How do we know that the new hire won’t steal, that the vendor will deliver or treat us fairly, or that the advertising will work?

The truth I realized as we sped around corners, leaning to the side with the wind whipping past us and the engine roaring was: We don’t. We don’t know, and so we have a choice. Trust and move forward, or distrust and keep doing your life and business as you have been.

I also asked myself whether I would have felt better, differently even, if I had been the one driving the Harley? If I had control of the bike? Would that have made me feel better or safer? My answer was no. I am not versed in that. I have never done it.

So if I want to experience more, have more, do more and live fully, I will have to trust others.

It’s the same in business. Those on my team, the people we hire for all those things we need, the places we advertise or things we decide to sponsor. We do it and I’m assuming you do it because if we don’t do it, we are not growing or risking or, maybe, we aren’t really living as fully as we could.

My challenge to you today is this: Who will you trust today? Maybe it’s simply trusting yourself enough to get on the bike and let things unfold as they will. Who knows, it might be one of the best things you’ve done in a while.

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