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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

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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Shawna Schuh

Pushing the Pig: Try It, and You’ll See Why It Doesn’t Work

Sometimes a completely different approach gets better results.

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I’M THE KEEPER of a pig, the size of which is an interesting subject. Herbert the Hogster is a mini pig. And now that he is in his fifth year of life, though I have no scale to weigh him on, nor could I lift him to gauge it that way, it’s looking like he could weigh in at 150 pounds or more.

I share this with you because Herbert has taught me an important leadership lesson recently. He was in the house uninvited. Sometimes I invite him into my office, which has a door to the outside and stone floors for easy cleanup of dirty hooves, but he snuck through the barrier and into the main part of the house and was heading in the direction of the dog food when I spied him.

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Immediately, I got behind him to push him back through the door and into the outside. He was having none of it. He planted his little hooves, and the more I pushed him, the more he grunted and squealed his displeasure.

That’s when I realized you can’t push a pig. Especially one that outweighs you.

This situation is like others we encounter where we want one result, and it seems nearly impossible to attain it by what we’re doing. Think about how you have sales goals — and because of those sales goals you do some pushing. And if you are feeling behind or overwhelmed, you might be pushing from behind. And nothing is happening.

Kinda like pushing a pig. No matter how hard you push, no matter how much you want to move forward, no matter how “nice” you are, that pig is not budging a bit.

So I stopped pushing.

I would like to say that I made this decision with a clear head and without using any off-colored words, but let’s suffice it to say after exhausting my strength and patience, I decided to take a different approach.

Do you quit pushing when the results are not there? Or do you keep at it because it’s the easiest thing to do or the thing we know? And do you notice that the harder you push the less you accomplish? This is true for so many things.

For me, it was my immediate reaction and that’s the real lesson. If I had stopped for a moment and thought about it, I had several other options that I could have done, including the one I did next: I went and got some pig food and put it in a pan so when I shook it, the sound made the most alluring and effective noise that Herbert wanted to follow. Which he did, right outside!

Next time before I — or you — push the pig, remember this lesson:

  • Think before reacting.
  • Determine the best plan or plans.
  • Lure rather the pressure.

Anytime things come to a standstill in your business, stop pushing the pig and do something else.

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