Unless your company is perfect, lucky or both, you and your staff have been confronted by angry customers who issue threats, demand refunds or expect all the make-goods under the sun. Front-line customer service representatives dread angry customers, and understandably so - too often they're not equipped to deal with the problem. But business managers should relish the opportunity to engage even the most furious clientele. It may sound counter-intuitive, but there is a higher potential for increased business and loyalty when the customer is angry than at any other moment in the sales and service process. That's because the customer will be enormously impressed if you handle the situation to his or her satisfaction.
The trick is cutting through the rage to find the solution. Whether you're a CEO or a CSR, follow these four steps to quell the customer's wrath.
1. Help them vent.
When someone is upset, that is all they can think about. If you don't recognize and deal with the emotion first, nothing else you can do will have an effect.
Traditionally, staff are trained to stay calm and listen to what the customer has to say. But when you stay calm, the customer is likely to believe that this incident is something that happens all the time; that you know there is a persistent problem and you're not trying to fix it.
Instead, get upset on behalf of your customer! Demonstrate shock, horror and dismay. Raise your voice to match the client's tone, treat the situation as an emergency and echo the customer's key words. For example: "You've been billed for the same item twice? And no one has called you back for three days?" This drives home the impression that this particular problem is the exception rather than the rule. More important, they'll see you as their advocate; their confidence in your desire and ability to solve the problem will rise, and their anger will subside.
2. Find out what they want.
Once your customer has calmed down and you fully understand the situation from his point of view, it's time to uncover what he wants or needs.
But tread carefully. A statement like "So, what do you want me to do?" can throw the customer back into a negative, accusatory mindset. Instead, offer a couple of options and ask which would best meet his needs. For example: "So that we don't waste any more of your time, I suggest two options: either we credit your account right away or apply this against the purchase you are making today. Which is best for you?"
3. Offer something special.
You've fixed the original problem. Now's your chance to rehabilitate your company's image and to lock in loyalty. This can be challenging, because while talking to a customer is an ordinary event for many staff, making a complaint is a rare event for most customers. You have to make the customer feel like this is a special offer for only them.
Naturally, it helps to know what your choices are. That's easy when you're the boss. However, unless your front-line staff have been equipped with some decision-making power or a list of make-good options, they will have to refer the customer up the management ladder.
When introducing the offer, make it sound like you're sharing a secret. For example: "I shouldn't really do this, but since you had to call us three times, I'd like to make it up to you by offering you one month free of charge."
4. Nourish the relationship.
You have just convinced a client that doing business with you is a positive experience, even when problems occur. Still, your job is not done. Set up the future by suggesting how similar issues might be avoided down the road (presuming the customer contributed to the problem to begin with). End the call on a personal note. "Is there anything else I can help you with right now?" This keeps the customer in a positive frame of mind.
Following these steps is critical when doing business, because it only takes a few short moments to win them back or lose them forever.