I once advocated that there was a time and a place for lying to your customers. If you’ll remember back to the time I lost my wedding ring (HERE), I said the person I spoke to should have lied, because anything would have been better than how she handled the situation.

Now before you tell me I’m crazy, I don’t suggest deceptively lying (VW, WellsFargo, etc., of course not, but I would argue that for the business in question, the rep should have been more prepared–especially in a hotel!

Whenever you’re dealing with a dissatisfied customer, it can feel like there are a million things that can go wrong. We’ve heard people refer to it as trying to juggle chainsaws while tightrope walking. To solve some of the chainsaw juggling, we advocate a corporately-shared script book in sales, marketing, and customer service.

You can’t plan for every single thing a customer might throw at us, but you can be better prepared and more prepared than your competitors.

My business coach Alan Weiss uses an excellent example to drive this point home for salespeople.“You will be talking to people who tell you that your price is too high. They will tell you that they don’t have time to meet with you, or haven’t had time to implement the strategies you suggest. They will tell you that they love everything you’ve said, but they don’t have the budget. They will tell you that they tried something similar once and it failed, and question why your method will be any better. If you’re not ready to answer these, then you are negligent, and you deserve to lose the business.”

Harsh, but trueThere are only a handful of things a client can say or a finite number of objections your people can hear. You better be ready for them.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the feeling that there are an infinite number of possible situations that we could be confronted with, and that it’s impossible to prepare, so the only hope we have is to find people who are immensely adaptable and naturally talented.

Instead, we suggest that there is a much more practical way to approach these challenges. My grandfather often uses the line, “If I only had a dime for every time….” I’ve never had a reason to use that phrase until now. If I only had a dime for every time I’ve worked with teams–sales, service, customer-facing people–and they say,

“What if?”

“What if the customer said this?”

“What if the customer said that?”

“What if the customer did this?”

We can’t plan for every, “What if?” but we can break things down to the bigger, overall themes (like lost complaints, prospect calls, etc.) and make sure everyone is prepared. If it’s true that there are a finite number of situations that your staff will deal with, then it seems equally true that there are only a finite number of “best” responses.

Let’s be clear– I’m not suggesting that there’s a direct one-to-one mapping of “Issue -> Best Answer.” If this were the case, we wouldn’t need customer service at all–we could just have a robot placed to accept abuse and spit out the “best” answer.

What I am suggesting is that it’s always possible to identify 5-10 great responses to almost every customer service issue you’re likely to face and to train your staff to choose the appropriate response based on the customer in front of them and their comfort levels.

Process is everything in our world, and if your people aren’t prepared for the most common scenarios, then you deserve the 1-star Yelp review. You deserve the social media blowback. I remember how I felt when my mentor told me if I wasn’t prepared, that I didn’t deserve the business, but he was right.

Your Challenge for This Week:

Look at your own business and identify the likely scenarios your people are likely to deal with on a regular basis.

For example, it might be the moment a customer enters your business for the first time–and you don’t have the staff to support them for 5-10 minutes. It might be on a phone call to ask about your products and services. It might be how you deal with specific types of valid complaints.

Ask yourself thisHow confident you are that everyone knows how to respond has effectively, and as naturally as possible to a variety of scenarios?

** Bonus points for testing 2-3 people with the same situation

If you’re interested in learning how to build your own script book in sales, marketing, and customer service, a good colleague and now co-author–Shawn Veltman–and I have written a new book on the topic and much to our surprise it’s available for pre-order now! I would appreciate your support! Check it out here on Amazon!