An interview on BBC Radio Jersey
Phil Gould talks with Sara Palmer on her lunchtime talk show on BBC Radio Jersey. He explains how to complain effectively without getting embarrassed. They discuss how to complain effectively so that other people take you more seriously, and how to respond when under pressure more gracefully, honestly and speak with integrity rather than preparing for a conflict or argument.
Alex: Hello, my name is Alex Gould. Thanks for taking the time listen to this episode of the “Skills with People” podcast from Gould Training.
This episode is a re-broadcast of an interview on BBC radio Jersey. We’re putting it out again because it represents our style and approach for dealing with people. In the interview Phil Gould talks with Sara Palmer on her lunchtime talk show during a segment about how to complain effectively without getting embarrassed.
During the course working with clients we’ve become well practiced at helping managers and professional people stand up for themselves, and training them to complain effectively in a way that makes others take them more seriously.
We’ve also spent a considerable amount of time training people involved on the customer services side of businesses. We specialize in helping them feel more confident about handling angry or difficult people. We give them lots of practice, feedback and coaching so they can feel more comfortable responding gracefully when other people complain so they can give their clients a much better customer experience and service. The benefit is that the companies are better at holding on to customers when things go wrong, rather than have them leave for more attentive service elsewhere.
If you like the sound of what we’re saying on the podcast, and you think it might be interesting, useful and relevant for you, or for someone you know, then contact us through our website for more information. You'll find answers to many of the most frequently asked questions about the content and method of this course. You can even arrange to have a FREE exploratory coaching session which will give you a foretaste of what you can get from our training course.
Now on with the podcast. Here’s the original broadcast …
Sara: If you want to complain how would you go about it? How can you complain effectively without getting all hot under the collar and ready for an argument? Well I’m delighted to say I’m joined on the show by Phil Gould from Gould Training in the UK who runs courses on complaining effectively. Good afternoon to you Phil.
Phil: Hi, it’s Sara is it?
Sara: It is indeed, yes. Thank you very much indeed for your time. Just explain a little bit if you would about what your company does generally over there in the UK.
Phil: Well, we run a training course called “Skills with People”. It particularly helps people to develop two very important skills. One is how to be assertive, and do things like complain to people without making them feel insulted. The other thing it’s about is listening with empathy. What we find is that the balance of those two things means that there are very few situations you can’t handle gracefully and successfully.
Sara: So I would imagine you would train staff and customer service people as well as clients of theirs.
Sara: Across the board for everybody.
Phil: Yes, exactly.
Sara: So if people want to complain effectively what’s the first step they should be thinking of?
Phil: Well the key to it is giving yourself permission to admit how you feel. That might seem a strange thing to say, but for example if you feel you’re being ripped off most of us wouldn’t want to say “You’re ripping me off” because that’s a kind of insult and it goes against the grain and that’s rather aggressive. But to avoid doing that you need to admit how you feel, so you could say “Well, I feel ripped off”. And you also need to say what it was exactly that made you feel like that, and the reason why you feel like that. So for example if you’re in a restaurant, and you ordered your steak, and it came not as you ordered, a graceful and succinct way of doing it would be to say,
You’re just honest about what you want. And you way two other things. You say exactly what it’s about,
“The steak”, and you say “I ordered it rare”
.. and then you pause. So you say how you feel, exactly what about, and the reason why you feel like that about it. And then you wait. And you gaze at the waiter. Now what’s the waiter going to do? You haven’t insulted him, you haven’t told him that he’s an idiot. You’re giving him feedback that he’s got a dissatisfied customer, and that motivates him to put it right for you, so the likely response is, “Oh I’m sorry, I’ll get you another one right away”.
Sara: Because presumably he would have been trained in customer service, so he would know that that’s exactly what he should do as well.
Phil: Well, even if he hadn’t it’s very hard for him to make any other response, because even if he hadn’t been trained in it the last thing he wants is a dissatisfied customer.
Phil: There are people who are deliberately out to rip you off, but it’s pretty unlikely. They wouldn’t be in business very long would they, if that was their attitude.
Sara: We were hearing earlier on from a restauranter here who said he would rather hear of a complaint and deal with it effectively then and there, than not.
Phil: Of course. So this is a very succinct way of doing it. How we define being assertive is it’s essentially being honest. It means being true to yourself, valuing yourself, trusting your own feelings and giving them a firm clear voice. Of course that in itself is a problem for a lot of people who are not used to saying how they feel. That’s the key to being assertive, and the key to making a complaint. You’re not making enemies, you’re not having a row, you’re just stating a firm clear fact.
Sara: I would imagine that a lot of people when they think about making a complaint they are already down the line of having a stand up argument in front of everybody, and how embarrassed everybody’s going to be.
Phil: Exactly, and they can’t think of a way of doing it that doesn’t create a row. Well, this way doesn’t judge the other person, doesn’t say “You’re in the wrong”. It simply talks about you in an honest, and clear, and factual way.
Sarah: What about following it up if it’s not to your satisfaction, and you still don’t feel satisfied, and you still don’t feel you’ve been treated fairly?
Phil: You mean if they get back to you and say, “I don’t care”. Or, “So what?”
Phil: Well, you be assertive again, but we call it the assertive ratchet. You ratchet it up. What you do is you say,
Now imagine being on the receiving end of that. It’s very hard for you to not then to take the person seriously.
Sara: Yep, good point. Do you teach people about complaining by email or phone? Sometimes these things happen, and you’ve ordered something on the internet, for example, and you’ve not been given the service you want it’s not always going to be face to face.
Phil: Well, I think the same principles apply really. The trouble with email is that very often people don’t realize that there is another person with their emotions on the receiving end. You can give an insult by email just as easily as you can give it by any other way. We train people to take great care whether it’s by phone, face to face, or by email that you take care of two things really. One is that you make the other person aware of how you feel, when you feel pleased, and when you feel not pleased. But also that you show some understanding of the other person. You say, for example,
Sara: It was a valid point actually again from Marcus a little bit earlier on from the restaurant, that the one thing he really hates is that when you’re asked if your meal is alright and you say, “Yes thank you it was lovely,” when you get outside you get straight onto the internet onto social media and complain there on any number of sites. Why would people do that?
Phil: Because most of us have been brought up to want to agree. It’s almost an instinct isn’t it to agree and not to have a row with people. It goes deeply and instinctively against the grain for most of us. It actually takes a lot of courage and honesty to behave with integrity when you feel under pressure just to be nice. But I think you need integrity to complain properly and be assertive. It means that you’re number one priority is to be true to yourself. It doesn’t mean you’ve got to put the other person down, but you ask yourself,
If you are, it’s being prepared to say so, but without attacking the other person, just to say that you feel bad. Often, even though it’s extremely hard and it requires courage, in the long run it’s probably the kindest thing to do for the other person as well.
Sara: Fabulous Phil. Alright, well there’s some really great instructions and advice there from you, so thank you very much indeed, and you’re at Gould Training.
Phil: There’s a book called “Connecting with People: the two most crucial skills”, it’s free, it’s an eBook, and the publisher is BookBoon.
Sara: Perfect. Alright Phil thank you very much indeed for your time today.
Phil: Thank you for asking me.
Sara: That was Phil Gould from Gould Training in the UK. He says be assertive, and listen as well, and let people know how you feel about it, that you don’t want to feel like that, as he said. I said earlier on most of us just don’t want to complain do we, but we know when something’s not quite right, we just feel it in our water. Thank you very much indeed to him.