In previous blog posts you heard me speak on the power of validation, which is all about making sure the people you’re communicating with feel heard.
To quickly recap, one of the biggest human needs is to feel heard or understood. If you want to build instant trust and rapport with consumers and get them to take action, you need to start by validating them.
That is why at my collection agency, the first thing we do when a consumer brings us a concern, a complaint, or even a bit of good news is make sure that person feels heard.
We communicate that with phrases like...
“I can see how important this is to you.”
“I can understand your concern.”
"Thank you for sharing that with me.”
I want to build on my earlier blog posts by adding that not only is validation important, it's just as important to consider what you say after the validation.
Be careful not to follow up your validation with an invalidating phrase like...
“But you still owe the money."
"Unfortunately, we still need to talk about this debt.”
"But you received these services, and you still owe the money.”
Let me show you what I mean by this.
Consider this scenario: A consumer says he cannot pay his debt because he was recently laid off from his job.
The collector will validate the consumer, communicating something like, "I understand how you are feeling. This is something we’re hearing a lot of people say, so you are not alone.”
(So far, so good)
Then, a collector might tell the consumer, "But you still owe the money."
That's a problem.
Do not follow up your validation with an invalidation statement. When you do this…
You’re going to get stuck in the negative part of the conversation by highlighting the problem rather than a solution.
The consumer is not going to feel heard or understood and is likely to repeat his story over from the beginning. This moves the call backwards rather than forwards (towards a solution).
Validating someone and then immediately invalidating that person can create more tension in the call than if you hadn’t validated that person to begin with. The consumer is going to see you as insincere.
Phrases like “But you still owe the money” communicate that you don’t really care about the consumer’s situation and can make the consumer not want to listen to you anymore.
To build on the momentum you created with the validation – which was, “I understand how you are feeling. This is something we’re hearing a lot of people say, so you are not alone” – you need to follow up with a seed of happiness.
What is a seed of happiness?
Have you ever gotten that one person on the phone who said, “I want you to know that I’m going to help you with this”?
How did that make you feel? You probably experienced a sigh of relief or felt unburdened, right?
Planting seeds of happiness is essentially telling someone "I’m going to help you with this."
It's a set of positive words that spoken at the right time plant a seed of a positive outcome.
Other examples include:
"I've got great news for you."
"You'll be interested to know..."
By planting seeds of happiness, you…
Move the call forward in the direction of a solution
Give consumers a sigh-of-relief moment and prime them to receive your solution
Pique consumers’ interest and get them to want to engage with you further
Build consumers’ confidence
Now, let's revisit the same scenario from earlier, this time using a seed of happiness.
Scenario: A consumer says he cannot pay his debt because he was recently laid off from his job.
A collector will validate the consumer: "I understand how you are feeling. This is something we’re hearing a lot of people say, so you are not alone.”
This time, instead of saying, "But you still owe the money," the collector says, "You'll be interested to know we have some options available. Let me ask you some questions so we can figure out what the best option is for you.”
Or, the collector might say...
“You’ll be happy to hear we’ve extended your time available to pay before we report this to the credit bureaus.”
“You’ll be happy to hear we can set up on a payment arrangement today.”
Do you see how the seed of happiness moves the call forward (towards a solution) instead of backward? And how it reaffirms what you told the consumer in the beginning, which was that you understand how he is feeling?
Every word you speak to a consumer is either going to create connection or drive disconnection.
Remember that the validation is important and so is every word after it.