Train your service employees to look for “Plan B”

In customer service, it is a fact of life that we cannot always give the customer what he or she wants. But, that does not mean that we can’t satisfy their needs. It does not mean that we can’t keep them happy.

And, in the process, through great service, we can not only create happy, loyal, even raving, positive customers – we can also build sales.

Let me take you to a scenario that you have encountered in your life as a customer. You want to buy something, and it’s not available.

A common response is, “I’m sorry, sir, it’s out of stock.” Or, “The colour that you want is out of stock.”

In most cases, the customer will ask the usual questions, “When will it be available” etc. And in many cases, that customer will do an about-face, turn to the door, and walk out.

Sales opportunity lost – not through poor service, but through a lack of alertness to the “power of Plan B.”

Let’s rewind.

You have trained your customer service team to “Always look for Plan B”.

What does “Plan B: mean? Very simply, it’s about finding an alternative solution, or doing something to keep the customer interested to buy from you.

For example…

  • “Let me call our other branch to see if they have stock”
  • “Let me check with the main office and I will see when we can get one for you. Can I take your details?”

An alternative Plan B is to offer the “positive no”. Very simply, this means that the customer service officer will say, “We can’t do that for you, but we CAN do this…”

In a world where we are time-poor and information overloaded, most customers will greatly appreciate the efforts of the customer service officer to help. The act of looking for Plan B will help to strengthen or build the relationship with the customer. And, in many cases, it will keep the sale where it should be – with your company.

So, what does it take for companies to develop “Plan B” service cultures?

There are some fundamentals.

First of all, employees need to be trained, coached and encouraged to always look for Plan B.

Second, the more customer service employees know, the better they can think of the Plan B alternatives. It might be a process issue. “We can’t do it that way, but I can suggest an alternative that will achieve the same for you.” Wow! These words are music to any customer’s ears.

Third, they need to feel confident that they are empowered to deliver Plan B. The Ritz-Carlton is a great example of clear levels of empowerment. Employees are empowered to use their best judgment to create a happy customer. And they back this up by empowering employees to spend up to $2000 to make any guest satisfied. This policy sends a very strong signal to employees that they are trusted – and that customer satisfaction is the number one priority at the Ritz-Carlton.

Fourth, managers need to model the way. They need to encourage employees to find Plan B. And, should the Plan B not work for whatever reason, they need to support the employee to improve for the next time. If the manager berates employees who go seeks to find a Plan B, it will certainly lead to that employee – and possibly the whole team, not having the confidence to think of a Plan B in the future. It will result in mindlessly following service-by-the-rules.

And, of course, at times, we cannot satisfy customer needs – despite our best Plan B attempts. The best we can do is have the customer walk away feeling that we have tried, and knowing the reason why. Our attempts to offer Plan B will, in most cases, be appreciated.

Your service team certainly plays a role in creating happy customers. And, with a Plan B mind-set, it can help to build sales as well.

Until next time.








3 thoughts on “Train your service employees to look for “Plan B”

  1. Great post George, I like the fact that you talk of the need to give ourselves permission to find an alternate solution for our Customers, even when they’d like to get what they ask for from us and we cannot do it.


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