Customer Service: The Folly of Being Defensive in Business | #custserv

Customer Service: Defensive Answers Always Backfire

Customer Service Defensiveness: Image is the word STOP.

Customer Service: Stop the Defensiveness. Image by: Lucas Cobb.

Image by Lucas Cobb via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Picture It! A customer tells you or your teammate didn’t get back in touch with them, has been unresponsive, missed a deadline, gave them an incorrect answer, was rude and non-empathetic, or a host of other negative information.

What Many Team Members Hear. You are a failure. You are no good. In an attempt to recover their sense of self-confidence and feel good, they then tell the customer why the customer service was bad. Being defensive like this is pure folly. It makes you seem self-absorbed, insecure, and mediocre.

What the Customer is Really Saying. Help me and rebuild my trust in your brand. The truly memorable response includes empathy for the inconvenience, attention to fixing it now, and in some cases, compensation for the inconvenience and trouble. Once you have solved the issue in question, you might provide information on how this error will be prevented in the future if it was a serious error. This impresses the customer. This brings them back to your brand for more memorable experiences.

The folly of being defensive in business is that it reduces trust, makes working with you difficult rather than easy, and demeans your professional image. Avoid this defensive dribble.

You will regain customer’s trust when you take ownership of your mistakes, offer a sincere apology for the trouble, and fix the errors. It sends out the cheer of integrity, the warmth of caring, and loads of professional competence. It is worth celebrating. It is truly memorable. It will echo in customers’ minds for quite some time. It delivers progress to your business and sets you apart.

What else makes for truly memorable customer service? What do you expect as a customer?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
The One Word That Destroys the Perfect Apology
Empathy & Integrity: 5 Ways to Rebuild Customer Trust

©2015 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.


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~Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

10 Responses to “Customer Service: The Folly of Being Defensive in Business | #custserv”

  1. Hello Kate. As always, valuable thoughts here for people in the workplace who are responsible for shaping a company’s culture brand and service reputation. Trust is the answer and taking ownership for mistakes with customers in a timely and authentic (make them *feel* this is the case and you have begun) manner is best practice. Make people feel special – it feels good and makes strategic business sense. It certainly takes energy and time – it’s definitely a worthwhile endeavor.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Yep Meghan — making people “feel” how valuable they are to your business is key. The steps to making that happen vary a bit — some want more empathy, a few want to move straight to fixing it, many want both. Detect which will work based on what they (customers) are saying and forge ahead.

      Thanks for your comments and insight.

  2. Excellent, Kate, as is your way! There is little else so trying as being in a support situation dire enough to warrant a phone call and then running into the brick wall of defensiveness. A customer who takes the time to bring a complaint is giving a gift to the company: they offer an opportunity to grow.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      I often wonder if those being defensive really see themselves as a brick wall. Hard to believe they would continue if they saw it that way. Great picture… thanks.

  3. Tammy Knoll-Anderson says:

    In defense of defensiveness.

    Kate, I love your posts and this one resonated with me. Without a doubt, you are exactly on target with your advice!

    Even so, let me play devil’s advocate to explore what might motivate an agent to react this way. Especially in today’s economic environment, many contact center agents are pushed to their limits and treated more as a commodity. This translates into a daily “keep your job” exercise.

    Being under that kind of scrutiny and responding to a high level of stress results in a defensive posture, especially at the agent level. It’s not an excuse, but rather the reason.

    Your alternative response was spot on and should be designed by leadership into the center’s culture. When folks feel the need to defend their work, they inevitably react defensively.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      As you say, Tammy, work a non-defensive response into the culture. My suggested response works well and I hope that the blog post will be used for valuable training — to change the culture.

      Many thanks for your contribution!

  4. Guy Farmer says:

    Great post Kate. This is such a common dynamic in so many workplaces. People think they have to defend their practices instead of focusing on the client and simply listening to their story. So many conflicts can be averted by understanding that clients or customers aren’t out to get us or make us lose face, they just want to be heard.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      This is exactly what I mean Guy. A practice is something that can change and get even better if CSRs and Tech support reps listen to the customer. Thanks for letting your voice be heard here at Smart SenseAbilities.

      Warmest wishes,

  5. Liz Weber says:

    Oh so true Kate! Why are so many people so insecure that they hear frustration as an attack?

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Great question Liz. There are many factors that lead to insecurity. For some it’s past events, for others it’s just where they are in the course of emotional development. In any case, “ya can’t bring it to work” and expect it not to affect your career and everyone you touch!

      Many thanks for adding to this discussion,

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