Customer relations: playing hard to get

staff Published by Staff – 29 June 2021

Clients demand excellent care and service—perfect in some sectors.  As you continue to improve your customer care, they raise their standards even higher.  Sometimes the situation reaches a tipping point. How do you handle clients who are vocal about their dissatisfaction—in good or bad faith—and provide them with the special touch that they are implicitly asking for? The SORC model, adapted by Charly Cungi from Kanfer and Saslow’s analysis grid, can help us get out of some tricky situations.

Fortunately this type of customer played by Michael Douglas in Falling Down only exists in the movies…

SORC, you say?

S as in Discriminative Stimulus

This is the criticism made by the client in the sales environment. This stimulus can be conveyed by any of the senses: voice, disapproving look, sneer, posture, etc.

Example: An unhappy customer enters a shop to speak with a salesperson: “Hello, I’m back because, well, look at my bag. All the stitching on the side has come undone. I can’t believe it, the quality is really shoddy, especially for how much I paid!” 

O as in Organism

Here the focus is on all the emotions and physical sensations that bubble up inside you and have an impact on how you interact with customers.

Example: The salesperson’s heart is thumping and they think that the entire world can hear it. They blush (organism) and think, “My Lord, another dishonest customer asking for an exchange or a refund!” (cognition). They feel personally attacked (emotions).

R as in Response

This is your defense system. When a person feels that they are being attacked, their stimulus causes them to subconsciously go into defense mode.

Example: “I’m sorry but I don’t know what you put in your bag, because that never happens! Our stitching is very solid.”

C as in consequence

This is the reaction to the response noted above. It’s what’s called a “maintaining factor.” The salesperson replied in the heat of the moment and didn’t provide a valid answer to the customer’s request. The client will respond in kind.

Example: “This is incredible. You’re trying to tell me that I’m the one responsible for your poor-quality stitching!”

  • The Vicious Circle model

This is where Charly Cungi’s adaptation of the SORC model comes into play.

Here we have a situation that will lead the salesperson to have thoughts, emotions and reactions that could make matters worse.

Mastering the SORC model allows you approach the client’s annoyance with a clear mind and avoid a knee-jerk reaction. You stop reacting instinctively and instead formulate a plan from the start to avoid becoming caught up in a vicious circle.

In our example, the sales rep can first attempt to understand the situation by asking neutral, factual questions: When did you purchase it? When did you notice that? Do you have any idea what could have happened? At this point, there are two possible solutions: send the bag back to the brand for restitching, or recommend a tailor who can mend the bag. The choice is made based on the bag’s age, company policy, price, etc.

You can generally predict the types of recurring problems that trigger these situations, which allows you to prepare in advance and think of all the potential solutions. Be creative!

Work on positive, gratifying phrases that show the customer that you’re solution-oriented, as well as phrases for when there is no solution.

Don’t forget the non-verbal cues that demonstrate to the customer that you’re focused entirely on them and that they’re IMPORTANT to you.

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