The value of silence
“A couple weeks back I interviewed a guy named Bill Adams for an article and, when I asked about how he handles customer complaints, he said, “I don’t answer statements.”
… During our meeting, I had given Bill an example: If you deliver a custom chair to a client, what do you do when the guy says he doesn’t like the color? “Nothing,” said Bill. “I don’t answer statements. I just nod and wait.” He went on to tell me that usually the guy will keep looking at the chair and point out something else he notices, then he’ll say what he likes, and eventually he’ll say, “The color isn’t bad,” and finally get to, “The color is better now that I see it from this side.”
“The whole time I say nothing.” … Let them vent. Listen – but don’t try to fix anything.
Maybe they just had a fight with their dry cleaner or got a traffic ticket on the way over to meet with you. Or maybe this is just their style. Let them talk first, and see where it goes. If you interrupt with the argument, “This is the stain color you chose,” you’ll break the reverie and disrupt their stages of acceptance.
So I asked Bill: “What then? What if they finish their exam and come back to the color?” “I ask the guy what he’d like me to do about it.” “And usually,” Bill went on,” it’s nothing.”
… It works with everyone. Let them finish. Say nothing. Listen, and nod. If an argument follows, it’ll be your fault because you tried either A) to fix it prematurely or B) you defended yourself unnecessarily.”