Pushback is when a customer replies to our answers with questions or comments which indicate they do not believe our solution will work for them, that they have little faith in our process, or that someone else did not give them the correct help.
There is a difference between pushback and mere clarification questions:
- Pushback is avoidable.
- Pushback unnecessarily prolongs a solution.
- Pushback is often antagonistic, combative, debating, or challenging.
- Pushback hints at fear behind the customer’s concerns.
- Pushback, at its root, shows a customer’s lack of confidence in us, not just our product or service.
Why should we try to minimize pushback?
When a customer pushes back, they are saying that our solution will not work for them. They may not even try it. Thus, they delay enjoyment of our products and solutions. So, in effect, they are hurting themself. (This assumes that we have 100% given the correct information). They may become disenchanted with our service, our products, and then us. This gives rise to customer dissatisfaction, non-renewals, and to bad word-of-mouth about our company.
Is pushback controllable?
Yes. While not every customer reaction is avoidable, the way in which we frame our answers, including how we greet, manage, and close our customer interactions, sets the stage for a customer’s reply.
In so doing, we are not merely discouraging dissent; we are demonstrating that we are trusted advisors who care, who take accountability for both our products and our processes, and that we genuinely want to see them succeed. Even a customer enduring a negative experience can be made to feel less alienated.
Customer can sense sincere care. Most customers are, at the end of the day, people with feelings and emotions who merely want to be heard, to feel their concern matters, and to hope we will remedy their pain points. They hope for resolution, but expect to be heard. Remember that always.
Pushback is directly correlated to a customer not feeling heard, not necessarily incorrect or missing information (although that can be a contributing factor).
How do we lessen the chance of pushback?
By consistently using the Four Principles of Quality Tone and Style (Knowledge, Intent, Understanding (Empathy), and Standing), we give customers the opportunity to have their concerns framed properly by us — not by them.
Think of a parent who tries to instruct a child on how to ride a bicycle. If the parent uses phrases like “I hope this works for you”, or “You should be able to stay balanced this time”, the child is not likely going to feel confident. They will have more concerns, more questions, and refrain from actual riding attempts. The child feels the parent is unsure, unsteady, and weak.
Alternatively, think of a teacher or coach who was able to instruct yourself or others to remarkable success. This person seemed capable, knowledgeable, and seemed to be in charge and aware of many scenarios and outcomes. Others were able to quickly trust this leader.
This same teacher or coach likely simply told you that you would succeed. “You’re great at this”, “You’re doing so much better now”, or even “Of course you will perform admirably”, showing very little doubt in you.
A Word of Caution about Pushback
Do not blow smoke and merely appear confident when we have no idea if something works.
The opposite is equally true: we need not be 100% confident if there is a small chance something might not work. It is okay to be confident and lead customers through a process, even though we know there is a small chance it could fail.
Learn to smile and keep going should things go wrong. Be a good listener and make small talk. Do not sound or appear overly worried. Demonstrate relaxed resolve when working through a customer’s concern.