You are not a hiccup wizard

When I used to teach customer service workshops many years ago, I shared some general customer service statistics: If someone has an unfortunate experience at a business, they will, on average, tell 10 or more people all about every last terrible detail. If someone has a positive experience at a store, they will tell, on average, about two people.

That is traditional customer service data. In today’s world of instant communication via the internet and social media, however, the unfortunate experience will be amplified to hundreds of people at once, sans fact-checking.

Now, if that person who had that unfortunate experience gives the store a chance to address the situation and they listen, either to correct mistakes or explain why things needed to happen the way they did (only about 4 percent of all shoppers will do so), 67 percent of that 4 percent of people will turn into repeat, satisfied customers.

The remaining 33 percent will never be satisfied.

They may not be satisfied for many reasons. They could be pathological complainers and lifelong victims, where everything and everyone in life is always out to get them. They may be intolerant of human mistakes. Some may get upset just because they don’t get their way.

What is 33 percent of that original 4 percent who listen after complaining?

The answer is 0.0132 percent.

The key is to not let that 0.0132 percent bring you down, even though they may be the loudest. No matter how hard you try, there will always be a handful of people who will never be pleased (0.0132 percent, to be exact). Of all the people who interact with you, a small percentage of them will experience some sort of hiccup. Of those that are hiccupping, most will be able to get over their hiccups in a short time, if it can be explained why they have the hiccups and they listen and understand.

The very small remainder? Those are people who don’t know how to live without the hiccups. Even though it doesn’t make sense, they’ll keep seeking out or creating situations that give them the hiccups, because that’s all they know. It’s not your job to fix everyone. You are not a hiccup wizard.

How do you not let that 0.0132 percent wear you down, when they are complaining so loudly to anyone who will listen?

First, understand that, for every person who has an unfortunate experience (whether real or perceived), there are many, many more who have pleasant interactions with you or your business. Why don’t you hear about the good experiences that often? It is human nature to loudly proclaim the ills that have befallen us, and some people are more prone to sharing negativity than others. We also generally expect things to go well, or at the least, be uneventful. The uneventful is nothing to write home about. So we don’t.

I’d like to challenge everyone reading this message today to do a few things that will defy those statistics:

1). Share the good. Think about all the places you shop or patronize throughout Northeast Michigan. Write a note or an online review about how much you appreciate your experiences with these places. Pick one or two recent interactions and let the business owners or people hear from you. You will make their day a little brighter, and you will feel better by being a ray of sunshine in someone else’s life.

And, 2). If you work in a customer service position, you are bound to take a beating from people from time to time. When you are being berated by a customer and you’ve tried to remedy the situation and they aren’t listening or are still unsatisfied, remember, don’t let that 0.0132 percent take up residence in your thoughts. Chances are they have the hiccups and they don’t want to get rid of them. The other 99.9868 percent that you serve are happy you’re here and appreciate your efforts.

Mary Beth Stutzman’s “Inspiring A-Town” runs biweekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.