Key IT Customer Service Skills: Conflict and Resolution

Key IT Customer Service Skills: Conflict and Resolution

Conflict happens in the workplace, whether we like it or not. Some people aren’t bothered by it, even drawn to it; others avoid it at all costs. Regardless of whether you’re drawn to it or avoid it, conflict resolution is one of the necessary customer service skills for career success in IT or any other field.

Unresolved conflict impacts all involved parties. Employee conflicts may contribute to an uncomfortable work atmosphere as well as poor performance. However, using effective conflict management techniques MSPs, CIOs and IT managers can foster healthy communication between employees. 

What is Conflict Resolution?

Conflict resolution is a process that involves finding peaceful solutions to disputes or disagreements between parties. It includes valuable skills that can be applied in various settings to prevent conflicts from escalating. Conflict resolution may involve difficult conversations, especially when confronted by angry customers or coworkers. 

Entire courses have been developed on conflict and resolution, books have been written on the subject, and experts have studied the process of conflict resolution for years. In this post, you’ll learn six basic techniques to help resolve common workplace conflicts.

What Causes Workplace Conflict?

Poor communication is a major cause of conflict at work. When ineffective or closed communication channels, misunderstandings can arise, resulting in disagreements and friction among teams or individuals. This can include misinterpretation of information, unclear instructions or expectations, or a failure to communicate important updates and changes.

Additionally, unclear performance expectations can contribute to conflict within the workplace. When employees do not clearly understand expectations or evaluation methods, it can lead to dissatisfaction and disagreements with supervisors or colleagues. 

Finally, time management issues can cause conflicts when individuals have different priorities or deadlines. Lack of coordination in time management can lead to missed deadlines and delays, creating tension among team members. Unresolved time management conflicts can also strain relationships and overwhelm employees.

Top IT Customer Service Skills for Conflict and Resolution

The conflict resolution process does not need to take very long. However, it does require that all involved parties work toward a resolution. This often requires using active listening skills. With the help of a neutral party, the drivers of conflict often come to a resolution. Here are several common strategies to consider when seeking workplace conflict resolution.

Number One: Assume good intent.

Most people are coming from a place of good intent. If you’re involved in a conflict, start by assuming the other person wants a good outcome and doesn’t want to hurt anyone in the process. Assuming good intent is just generally a good customer service skill. If you know for a fact that the other person doesn’t have good intentions, you have other issues than conflict resolution to deal with. Consider options for dealing with difficult people.

Number Two: Try to get the conflict to a warm position.

A hot conflict is one where the parties to the conflict are really angry, possibly yelling at each other, and maybe even at the risk of a physical confrontation. A cold conflict is an exact opposite where the parties aren’t speaking to each other. Conflict management styles vary, however the goal for resolution should remain the same. See if there’s a way to get it to a warm state where tempers aren’t flaring and they’re willing to talk.

Number Three: Separate the person from the problem.

It is common advice to keep personal opinions out of a conflict, but it is often easier said than done.   This is common advice, but it’s often easier said than done. Here are ways you can separate the person from the problem:

Think long-term, another good customer service skill. When you take a long-term view of any situation, you tend to think differently than when you think short-term. Among the differences are thinking about mutual benefit and collaboration.

Avoid name-calling and thinking of the other person as an enemy. Instead, think of the other person as a collaborator working with you to resolve issues to each other’s benefit.

Use empathy. Think about how you would feel if you were in the other person’s position with a similar set of past experiences and a similar view of the world. Empathizing is always a helpful approach to conflict resolution.

Number Four: Meet on neutral ground.

Pick a restaurant or a coffee shop to meet. Consider a neutral workspace. Maybe even meet at a hotel meeting room. Remember, this is not about one person dominating the other, it’s about resolving conflict to each other’s benefit. If the conflict is between two people in the same company, avoid having the parties go to one person’s office. Instead, consider a neutral conference room.

Number Five: Brainstorm.

Brainstorm for possible solutions. This goes back to collaboration and is another key customer service skill. Remember, in brainstorming you simply list ideas, in this case possible solutions. When you brainstorm, remember to encourage and allow everyone to offer solutions and freely discuss them, allow individuals to talk without interruption, encourage the parties to question like a student (as opposed to a prosecutor) to gain a deeper understanding of the other person’s position, and write down ideas without regard to whether they’re feasible or not. Don’t criticize other ideas without also offering constructive discussion as to their pros and cons, and allow all parties to discuss their thoughts openly. Insist on civility between the parties.

Number Six: Agreement

List all possible solutions that both parties can agree on. Look for common ground. In a perfect situation, you will produce a collaborative win-win outcome. Sometimes that’s not possible. In those times, look for a compromise solution that everyone will agree to. Ask for an explicit commitment to the agreed-upon solution from all parties.

Conflict in the workplace doesn’t have to create insurmountable hurdles. When managed well, conflict can produce positive outcomes for teams and individuals. That’s why conflict management is an important customer service skill Keys to successful conflict management include assuming good intent, fostering a collaborative approach, and focusing on the desired outcome.

Conflict Resolution Impacts Customer Satisfaction

Customer service teams must have strong conflict-resolution skills. Failing to resolve customer conflicts can hurt retention, loyalty, and brand awareness. Based on the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 findings, approximately 50% of customers express their willingness to switch to a competitor following a single negative experience. This percentage increases significantly to 80% when multiple bad experiences occur. This shows the importance of customer satisfaction when resolving conflicts.

While there is no guarantee that an unhappy customer will respond positively to an IT customer service agent’s attempts at resolving conflict, the steps outlined above will work most of the time. 

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