In his book “When,” Daniel Pink discusses the importance of timing events from the matter of their substance, or the what. Whether the timing is good or bad depends on one’s awareness of the current surroundings, and on a perspective gleaned from experience and instigated by an instinct for future risk. That’s it—easy.
From this perch, let’s come down and apply some of this to the daily choices being made in business. For the sake of role playing, let’s take on the perspective of service representatives that are dealing with customer requests (demands) in the context of warranty claims.
Service reps need a keen awareness of the overall situation expressed by factual surroundings. On behalf of the company, they interface live with individual consumers who invariably have a vigorous view of their entitlement. These consumers present a countless number of factual—and sometimes fanciful—supporting arguments. Yet, the claims are evaluated and administered one-by-one, case-by-case.
Ultimately, the unspoken goal for both company and caller is resolution, i.e. to be done. So, even if the customer request is declined, providing the nature and reasoning behind the resolution can leave the caller satisfied that they were treated fairly. Each customer call is an opportunity for a positive resolution.
It is also important for the company and the service rep to acknowledge that there can be an inescapable subjective element to the process. Somewhere, there may exist a perfect track record of administering warranty claims in literal compliance with crystal clear warranty terms. But real-world dizzying facts can fit less-than-perfectly with warranty terms that seem to take a different connotation depending on circumstances and the evaluator’s point of view. Suffice it to say, there may be a place for “wiggle room.”
How does this involve the earlier rambling about timing? We call it “Give – Get.” The time to Get that better resolution (the one that brings you to done) is at the time you Give something in response to a claim. Consider the proposition that providing some benefit under a warranty may, at times, entail a measure of accommodation to which neither company nor service rep wish to be later bound as precedent, then think “Give – Get.”
With today’s communication tools, the hardest part of clarifying that an aspect of the relief is being provided as an “accommodation” to the customer, is having the presence of mind to do so. Complicating the matter, the customer must also accept that any future service will be evaluated only according to the applicable terms of the warranty. Failing to engage a writing in this process leaves the company later exposed to failing or memories twisted by the customer’s realization that, “Hey, this worked before.”
Whether a service rep or not, anytime you are involved with a contested matter, do not confirm what you will give until you have evaluated what you should get. If it is fair that you get something in return, then concurrently communicate that in writing as a condition. It may be to identify an accommodation, to confirm that there are no other outstanding issues, or state the respective elements of an agreement to resolve what had been disagreed. The when is now.