I need a powerful, innovative solution. I am a manager of a supply company that provides materials for commercial construction projects. I have been with the company five years and enjoy my job most days. The problem I’m having is that sometimes the clients complain about the product even when it is exactly what they ordered. I have a large territory and cannot always give the client the individualized attention they need. The sales people and installers have far more contact with the clients than I. During the times when I have had the time to visit an unhappy client, the problem is usually an easy one to resolve. I don’t want to complain to the owners because they might I can’t handle the job. However, I know that if clients continue to complain, that will reflect badly on me as well. What advice do you have?
Thanks for writing. The advice I give will be broken down into three blogs. I’ll begin by saying you are a step ahead of many managers who have a problem because you are seeking answers. Being humble enough and vulnerable enough to seek help is one of the great leadership traits that successful people possess. As you know, culture trumps everything in an organization. It’s clear that you understand that within your organization’s culture, you are expected to solve problems and not simply describe them. While most leaders are expected to be solution finders, only the wisest leaders can see all sides of a problem and put together a multi-faceted plan of solving the problem.
To begin solving this problem, please consider answers to the following questions:
What are the most common complaints with the product?
How do you find out about the complaints?
What has been done in the past about complaints?
Do you meet regularly with salespeople to discuss the product and client feedback?
Do you meet regularly with installers to discuss the product, ease of installation, and client feedback?
Are the people who have regular contact with the clients given authority to resolve issues?
Are the people who have regular contact with the clients given a standardized way of communicating with you about the feelings of the clients?
Are the employees and outside vendors given incentives for identifying, reporting, and helping solve clients’ problems?
Are the owners aware of the complaints and have they given any direction?
How open are the owners to investing in a solution that help the organization operate efficiently and effectively?
The answers to these questions will begin to help you formulate a solution to your problem. In the next blog, I will provide a detailed method of getting to the root cause of the problem. The complaining clients are simply a symptom of a complex problem. I will teach you how to do the research to make sure you are strategically solving the right problem.