RSS Fix the Person First

Recently an opportunity occurred, within our organization, for two individuals from different departments to work together in order to resolve a client issue that was the result of a technology failure. 

Both team members accepted ownership of the problem and focused their energy on finding a way to improve processes to ensure a similar occurrence will not occur in the future. Unfortunately, the team members did not communicate this shared empathy in a way that was relatable to the client and the issue escalated.

This is a very common occurrence in organizations; some individuals appear to be more empathetic than others. Why is this?

In my opinion, this common misunderstanding isn’t necessarily a personality characteristic, in which one team member is more empathetic than another, it’s a matter of recognizing that when you ‘fix the feelings of the person first’ the best possible results will come out of the negative situation. Once the individual has calmed down, it’s much easier to address the problem that created the negative feelings.

Allow me to use a specific example to illustrate the point. Years ago an irate client, upset over a service charge they had received on their monthly statement, came into my office to demand that the fee be reversed due to a bank error.

Being the raw talent that I was at the time, all I heard was that the bank made an error. I carefully explained how and why the service charge on his account was correct. To my surprise, the client was thoroughly displeased by my response. He promptly announced that he would be closing his account due to my lack of service.

Obviously, I didn’t take this news well and sheepishly asked the client to sit back down so that I might better understand his frustration with the bank. After a couple of unkind remarks, directed at me, the client reluctantly sat down. Today, I realize that he did so because I had changed my focus from the problem to concentrate on why he felt the way he did.

Herein lies the lesson that I feel is worth sharing: Your customers don’t have a relationship with an organizational process or your technology; they have a relationship with you!  Therefore, each individual in an organization is responsible for helping clients fulfill their expectations of value. The best results occur when you focus on ‘fixing the person first’ before addressing a problem. This puts you and the client on the same playing field by delivering tangible value that they can feel good about.

So, you may be wondering, what happened with the irate client?  I am pleased to say that they remained a patron, and actually became a strong advocate for our company in the community. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but ‘fixing the person first’ has turned out to be an extremely valuable lesson that I use both at work and at home.

Try it out! And, if you feel so inclined, post a response. I’m interested to see if you get the same positive results!

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2 Responses to “Fix the Person First”

  1. Walter Roland says:

    Mitch, I saw the billboard by the bank and right away knew that I had to check out the site What a terrific idea! I have just read a few of your musings but I am excited by what I am reading and by the concept. I hope you don’t mind if I refer others to your site and even if I (sheepishly) copy the concept myself.


  2. Mitch says:

    Thank you, Walt!

    I would be delighted if you shared the blog with your circle of friends and colleagues.
    Thanks for your support!

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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