Edit ModuleShow Tags

The value of silence


Published:

Sometimes it’s better to just say nothing.

A couple weeks back I interviewed a guy named Bill Adams for an article and, when I asked about how he handles customer complaints, he said, “I don’t answer statements.”

Bill owns a custom cabinetry shop in Evergreen called Living Wood, a company he started 12 years ago when he got tired of building sailboats.

During our meeting, I had given Bill an example: If you deliver a custom chair to a client, what do you do when the guy says he doesn’t like the color?

“Nothing,” said Bill. “I don’t answer statements. I just nod and wait.”

He went on to tell me that usually the guy will keep looking at the chair and point out something else he notices, then he’ll say what he likes, and eventually he’ll say, "The color isn’t bad," and finally get to, "The color is better now that I see it from this side."

“The whole time I say nothing.”

Now this seems simple and hardly worth mentioning – at first. But it’s really the bacon double genius-burger of customer-handling advice.

Let them vent. Listen – but don’t try to fix anything.

Maybe they just had a fight with their dry cleaner or got a traffic ticket on the way over to meet with you. Or maybe this is just their style.  Let them talk first, and see where it goes. If you interrupt with the argument, “This is the stain color you chose,” you’ll break the reverie and disrupt their stages of acceptance.

So I asked Bill: “What then? What if they finish their exam and come back to the color?”

 “I ask the guy what he’d like me to do about it.”

“And usually,” Bill went on,” it’s nothing.”

I’m 20 years in business myself, and I learned something from Mr. Adams that I wish I knew on day one.

The funny part came right after this when he said “It works with wives, too.”

And he’s right. It works with everyone. Let them finish. Say nothing.  Listen, and nod. If an argument follows, it’ll be your fault because you tried either A) to fix it prematurely or B) you defended yourself unnecessarily.

If it helps, just sing to yourself the Allison Krause song, When You Say Nothing At All.

To yourself, please!

And thanks, Bill, for the fantastic bit of wisdom.

Edit Module
David Sneed

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss; The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company". As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at  David@EveryoneHasABoss.com

Get more of our current issue | Subscribe to the magazine | Get our Free e-newsletter

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

If you believe in it, fund it!

Like Congress, if organizations devise good measures but don’t fund them appropriately, they waste their effort and add a few more pages to the company operating manual or HR policy binder, causing cynicism and wonder at “how stupid they can be.”

Mergers & acquisitions: Tips for a successful transaction

Merger and acquisition expert and attorney at law Stephen Dietrich gives practical advice every business professional should know before buying or selling a company.

Great made in Colorado stuff for the great outdoors

John Stultz started his third business, Bear Paw, a decade ago. “I’ve always been a big hiker and backpacker, so I started making tarps,” he says. He now makes a variety of tarps and tents and custom gear for hunters and thru-hikers.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Thanks for contributing to our community-- please keep your comments in good taste and appropriate for our business professional readers.

Add your comment: