You put your heart and soul into building your brand and a respectable reputation. Then something happens. Filled with spit and vinegar your customer complains. How you handle an upset customer can turn even the most difficult into a lifelong loyalist. Challenge yourself to take on these six tips to turn around even the most difficult customer.
1. Manage your emotions before you say a word. It isn’t always easy to stay calm when your client is angry. Emotions are contagious. Rather than catch their mood, let them catch yours. When you remain grounded and compassionate in the face of anger, it has a calming effect. One way to do that is to remember that their anger isn’t personal. Instead of feeling attacked, see yourself as someone who can partner with your client to attack the problem together.
2. Thank your customer for complaining. The most disarming words you can say to a complaining client are, “Thank you for telling me.” Eighty-nine percent of unhappy customers don’t complain, they just move on to a competitor. From that perspective every complaint is a gift that may offer insight into problems that others aren’t willing to share.
3. Apologize, even when it’s not your fault. This can be challenging, especially if you believe in your bones that you did nothing wrong. You may feel a bit miffed when you give a customer exactly what they ask for, and they say, “I know it’s what I asked for, but you should have known I wouldn’t like it.” Even then, you can offer, “I’m sorry you’re not happy.” When your company does make a mistake, give a genuine apology, and let your client know how you plan to follow up so that a similar situation is not likely to happen again.
4. Shut up and listen. When customers rant, you might want to run screaming from the room. Or you might be tempted to cut them off by offering an immediate solution. Don’t do it. Not until they feel fully heard will they be receptive to a resolution. Soothe yourself as they complain by reminding yourself, “This is good. This client is expressing his feelings. Once the bad feelings come out, the good feelings can return.”
5. Ask, “How can we set things right?” Most customers simply want to feel heard, and know you care. They’ll often ask for much less than you might think. When possible, check in with them before coming up with a solution of your own.
6. Have service recovery tools and know how to use them. Being heard and understood is sometimes all it takes, but at other times you need to make atonement. Give the customer something more than she expected. A gift card, or other tangible offering can leave a lasting positive impression. Though, be careful not to give it before your client feels fully heard, otherwise it may be seen as a “buying-me-off” type of tactic, instead of a sincere gesture.
When you handle upset customers well, you become known as someone they can trust to take care of them. Loyalty grows and so does their word-of-mouth praise.
P.S. Shameless Self-Promotion: This week we’re offering free gifts with the paperback release of our bestseller, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer Into Your Biggest Fan at http://bit.ly/GladysBook.