Benchmark Business Group

Train Your Team To Be Problem Solvers

January 10, 2023

One common theme we see with business leaders is that they feel they “have’ to step in to handle problems with customers. They feel their employees can't handle customer concerns on their own or they have other excuses including: 

  • That's why I get paid the big bucks
  • I’m afraid they’ll upset the customer
  • I don’t think they know what to do
  • They can’t make those decisions
  • I tried letting the team handle issues, but it didn’t work
  • The customer wants and expects to talk to me

While these examples may be real, they’re just excuses. As a business leader, most customer issues shouldn’t land on your desk. Every business has customers who have questions, get upset, or want to talk to a manager. And while occasionally you may need to get involved, 90% of the issues should be able to be identified and handled by your team. As a business leader it’s important to create a team that is independent and able to solve customer issues. While we can’t cover everything in one newsletter, here are a few tips for what your business should be teaching your team:

Problem-solving skills. It may seem odd at first, but many people are not taught how to solve a problem. That means those team members you assign to solve the problems may not have the skill set for it. Sure, you can step in and do the work for them, but it’s a better use of your time to teach problem solving to your employees. You might have systems for how to manage specific problems in your business, but it’s also valuable to have a general problem-solving system as well. When you teach someone how to problem solve it changes their entire mindset. It allows them to be more productive, not just at work, but in other areas of their life as well.

If you’re reading this and thinking that you can’t teach problem solving, don’t worry there are resources out there to help. There are plenty of systems you can implement if you don’t want to create your own. Or you can work with a BBG business coach to create one that works for your business.

How to Handle Difficult Conversations. When customers are upset it’s often easier for team members to escalate the issue rather than handle it themselves. Sometimes you might even prefer that issues are escalated to you, but the truth is your team should be able to handle most issues without the leader getting involved. This means they need guidelines for understanding what they can handle on their own and when they need to involve others. You might choose something specific like they can handle issues up to a certain dollar amount in credits or refunds. Once the guidelines are set, they need to be taught to “handle the heat.” We use a system we call “Take the H.E.A.T.” to train team members how to handle upset or difficult customers.

Impact Matrix. One easy thing to teach your team members is to use an impact matrix. We’ve noticed that when a team member is solving a problem, one of the elements that works against them is that they don’t look at the issue from other points of view. They get stuck in a vacuum thinking about the issue from their own role and experience. The impact matrix is a simple and easy tool to help them consider other points of view. If you’re a BBG client ask your coach for a sample, but if you’re not it’s simple to create. Make a + on a piece of paper. Then label each of the four quadrants with different points of view. We tend to use You/Your Role, Customers, Vendors, and the Business as the labels, though this might change based on the issue. Then, as the problem is being discussed, you step into each role to ask questions such as:

  • how does this impact them?
  • if we changed it, would it change something for them?

This helps your team see that often when we solve a problem it impacts others. This forces them to step out of their role and make better decisions on behalf of your business.

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