“The more we run from conflict, / The more it masters us; / The more we try to avoid it, / The more it controls us; / The less we fear conflict, / The less it confuses us; / The less we deny our differences, / The less they divide us” – David Augsburger
The quote amply explains conflict and its management. When people interact conflicts are inevitable. In the realm of customer service too, especially where the everyday tasks involve high stress, internal conflicts are bound to happen. However, the most sure shot way to drastically bring down the quality of customer service is to have them and do nothing to resolve conflicts in teams. A divided team will constantly be at loggerheads and the focus would shift to getting the better of the other person. While each individual is responsible for his or her actions, customer service managers bear the onus of helping to resolve conflicts in teams. It is their responsibility to ensure that the team moral does not drop as this would lead to a plethora of other problems. We have earlier established that poor attitudes, ill-tempers and a shift from customer focus will have a direct impact on the level of customer service and lead to customers that are frustrated and dissatisfied. Customer Service Managers must resolve conflicts in teams to maintain service excellence for the overall success of the company.
Understanding and expecting conflicts are facts that customer service managers must accept. Each individual member comes with a separate set of expectations and is a different individual with unique characteristics. This makes the role of team leaders and managers even more critical in conflict management. Conflicts must be avoided as much as possible by creating an environment and work atmosphere that fosters cooperation and team work. Any manager would be better off in avoiding conflicts rather than having to resolve conflicts in teams. What must managers do and remember with regard to conflicts?
– Remaining calm will keep them in control. Being unflustered and composed in conflict situations is always an advantage for the person responsible for resolving them. Conflicts are result of misunderstandings and probably misplaced anger. Angry people do not listen and this leads to an escalation of the problem. Managers must not become part of the anger tide and keep their mind focused on resolution. They must also remember to avoid getting in to conflict situations on their part to be able to lead by example. Thinking clearly is the most effective way to conflict resolution.
– Take time to listen – active listening and listening with the aim to understand. Listening carefully to the people involved in the conflict will allow the manager to hear more than just the words and focus also on the feelings being conveyed. Very often conflicts do not arise out of a single situation and there may be many underlying reasons and or history that ultimately drive the team members to become highly agitated with the work and their colleagues. Managers must have the capability of listening to each member individually and seek to find resolutions that are acceptable to all. It is to be understood that what the members are conveying is personal to them but not a personal attack on anyone. For example, a normally calm employee let fly an extremely emotional tirade on another member and everyone was confused. The manager was able to ascertain that the employee was having serious issues at home for a considerable length of time, and this pressure expressed itself by the barrage in office. By extending help and allowing the employee a few days off with pay to resolve those issues, the manager was able to prevent damage and resolve conflict before it got out of hand.
– Managers must focus on and put the spotlight on what is positive and going well. Showing the team members involved what they have been doing well and being empathetic always helps. Sharing personal experiences related to the same situation, the manager can let the team members know that they are not alone and there have been people who have tackled similar situations with success. This helps to calm people and lets them rationalize the situation with their emotions.
– Even if the team members in the conflict are at fault, it would serve the manager well to refrain from assigning blame and labeling them. The problem at hand must be attacked not the persons involved. The manager’s chance to resolve conflicts in teams increase significantly when they are able to keep focus on what is wrong. Manager’s must meet every member individually and understand their viewpoint before meeting them as a team. Focus must remain on the issue, keeping calm and ensuring that all members remain calm.
– Managers must keep the focus on ensuring that what happens in the future is beneficial for all. Delving on past errors and conflicts will never resolve the problem at hand. Focusing on what can be done in the future to avoid such conflicts and ensure they do not reoccur is the responsibility of managers. The past must only be used to analyze and understand what situations led to the current problem. Post that only resolving for the future stands to be of any importance.
– As far as possible, ensure that the members involved in the conflict are the ones who provide the resolution. Ask open ended questions like “What do you think can be done”? “How do you think these issues can be avoided?” Such questions place responsibility on the employees and the suggestions they make will help to ensure that the sanctity of the work environment is maintained. Telling the team members that lack of conflict and enhancing of team work will ensure success, is a great way to keep conflicts at bay. Help them to see that their problem has been recognized and every effort will be made to ensure their comfort and well-being in the company. They must be encouraged to bring forth any problems they have in the future and also that conflicts are unacceptable in a work environment.
– Encourage staff to resolve minor issues amongst them – getting involved in each and every trivial problem will leave no time for the manager to do business related jobs. Managers must actively learn to pick the battles they would want to fight and sort out. Every issue does not require lengthy resolution and problem solving methods.
– Completely discourage any rumors and grapevine that could be damaging for the teams. Persons spreading rumors and badmouthing their colleagues and the company must be dealt with severely. Keeping such elements out of the work environment keeps negativity and chances of conflict to a minimum.
– Ensure that all members know and recognize the expectations and boundaries of the team and the company. Courteous and polite behavior is an all-time expectation with no concessions. Ensure that open and two-way communication is encouraged and employees interact with each other rather than keeping grudges. Communicating minimizes misunderstandings and brings out negativity in the open to be done away with more easily. Managers must inculcate the habit of leading by example. The team members must have access to the manager for any issue or problem they wish to speak about. Ensure that lines of communication are clear and unhindered.
– Make unacceptable behavior a zero tolerance zone. Any uncomplimentary and negative behavior must be dealt with severely and consequences for the same must be far from easy. Document and put on file any such behavior that would have consequences for the person’s appraisal and resultant salary increase. When such behavior is connected with the performance appraisal it becomes a company standard and violations could lead to severe consequences including termination.
Working together is the key to success and leads to every customer interaction being positive and happy. Happy customers will ensure repeat business and lead the company to success and sustainability.