With Customers/Community, It’s Never Right to Fight


Tambako the Jaguar / Flicker - CC

Tambako the Jaguar / Flicker – CC

Rarely have so few pages of text carried so many straightforward and applicable messages as  Olivier Blanchard’s writings on resolving conflict in the digital space.

The author pulls no punches and offers very sage advice.

Sometimes, people just want to fight, he says. (How true, I’ve experienced.)

Regardless, the person on the receiving end of the customer service transaction should never, ever engage in a grudge match­­­–especially if you are a community manager or otherwise serve as the voice of a company, Blanchard advises.  (A great recommendation, I can attest as a former corporate spokesperson.)

In the customer service space, the author advises, “Don’t try to win. Don’t even fight.” He explains how it’s a no-win and a no-brainer.



This is a particularly important consideration today because of the ever-ongoing life of digital communications. Social networks are the medium where customer service communications are most likely to occur now, Blanchard says, so CS interactions are much less private and much more share-able now than in the past. (Before, they might have been restricted to a grumpy-one-one phone call, a haughty letter to a customer service office, or a nastygram e-mail to the CEO.)

Today’s customer service outcome reach is vast because of its social networking dimension­­­­­­. But the good news, Banchard reminds, is that positive interactions are just as broadcast-able, as well.

Both negative and positive words publicly exchanged and positioned “will be archived by Google forever,” Blanchard reminds, so losing your cool on a customer service interaction means it will be set in social media stone (and perhaps transmitted instantaneously to thousands).   That’s a real reputation builder (or not)­­­ if you’re the community manager, spokesperson, relationship outreach person, or other formal representative of an organization. (I’ve come to acknowledge that reality through difficult tribulations.)

That brings Blanchard to his rules for social media customer service interaction. (I’ve abbreviated and interpreted them here.) He points out succinctly that there are real costs to both positive and negative implementation. The chapter is a true wake-up call and guide to today’s online interactions.

Clive Andrews / Flickr - CC

Clive Andrews / Flickr – CC

#1   The customer is always right (Still. And especially in today’s delicate economy.)

#2  Treat customers like royalty. (This is actually a favor to your mindset.)

#3  Regard testy customers as tests of your coolness and professionalism. (Really!)

#4   Your “calm, generous demeanor” is the mindset that helps you diffuse conflict; and time is on your side.

#5   Politeness diffuses anger. (Simple. Tested. True.)

Ashley Wang/Flickr-CC

Ashley Wang/Flickr-CC

#6   The customer can help you    turnaround his/her dissatisfaction. (Ask how you can help, show  understanding of the situation, recruit the customer in solutions to diffuse problems.)

#7   Don’t ever argue. (Don’t’ get sucked into a fight.)

#8   Apologize; it doesn’t hurt. (It will help the situation and impress everyone.)

#9  Offer alternatives if you’re asked for an unreasonable resolution. (If you must offer variants of solutions, take that conversation offline.)

Blanchard’s recommendations are good ones, as I can affirm from personal experiences.

I’ve lived through some very difficult yet very interesting “customer service” situations, as Imight characterize my role of community relations point-person and media spokesperson during several years of very public land claims litigation. The organization I worked for was pushing its legal rights through a volatile litigation strategy. That left many area residents and homeowners (many of whom were also the organization’s buyers, consumers and employees) unsure of their own legal status and unclear of the too-subtle differences between an aggressive litigation strategy and real-life threats.



Many people ended up being understandably concerned and upset that their homes and properties were being talked about in legal terms (and as some thought, physical ones) as potentially able to be disrupted or “taken back.”

(Maybe that’s why I particularly enjoyed and understood Blanchard’s on-point and very practical recommendations.)

Have you ever had a really horrible customer service experience you can relate?  By contrast, have you ever had a great outcome from an excellent customer service provider? Please share your stories about those!

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