Always start the conversation by asking “How can I help you with this?”

This can be for anything in life, but I run into this a lot with discussions between vendors and my clients. My client will raise an issue of concern, and the vendor will respond by saying “That’s not my fault” or “That’s because of something someone else did.”

While that answer may be technically correct, it’s not the answer my client is seeking. Because regardless of what the issue is, when someone is complaining, they’re really just seeking a solution to their problem. And very often, the vendor may have an easy solution. Spending time on who is to blame is not productive, nor is it terribly helpful.

One of my sisters used to manage a GAP clothing store. She told me she learned very early on in her career that when a customer was upset about something (e.g., returning an item that didn’t fit or had not held up in the wash), rather than trying to trying to guess what the solution should be, she would simply ask “How can I help you with this?” She tells me that often the customer would say “Oh, I don’t want you to do anything. I just wanted you to know about this.”

Problem solved!