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(A) Avoid Wrong:
Even if the adage "The customer is always right" is not always true it is important to avoid making them feel they are wrong. People will argue vehemently to avoid being wrong. One of the simplest ways to avoid a battle of who is right and wrong is by never placing blame. Keep a customer from becoming defensive by never actually using the words they're wrong.
I can utilize this in my presentation by:
(N) Name Power:
A difficult customer is often someone who is asserting themselves in order to feel important and in control. By making them feel important without them becoming assertive keeps all parties calm and relaxed. When you ask a customer their name they see that you are taking an interest in them as an individual and that makes them feel special. The more you address them by their name the more they will feel important. A person's name is the sweetest sound to them and each time you use it they realize you are making an effort to work with them. Also give your name. It accomplishes several things. First of all your client feels in control. They know who they are talking to and that they are not just talking to a robot. The personal touch of a name gives substantially more credibility to your solution and importance. Best of all when you use names you are no longer a stranger and that makes it a bit easier for everyone to stay even tempered.
(A) Affirm Understanding:
By paraphrasing the customer's problem they will have tangible proof that you are trying to see their viewpoint. After restating a customers problem add "Is that right?" or "Is that everything?". That gets them to say yes and see that you really did hear everything they said.
When the customer affirms that you understand their needs and issues you have them recognizing that you are working with them in a positive manner. As conversation progresses in that direction all parties feel satisfied that something is getting accomplished. This results in everyone staying calm and content while focusing on the solution.
Angry, unreasonable and obnoxious are words that remind us of very difficult customers. When we describe certain customers with these words the vision in our mind often makes us tense and has our blood pressure increase. We can trick our mind into a calmer state by referring to these customers as peeved, challenging or needy. When you use words that have softer connotations your mind defines the situation as softer. The simple act of changing the words you use to refer to your customers will help you maintain a more relaxed state. Note: you can also use the technique when paraphrasing a difficult customer's situation as you work to tone them down.
(A) Ask them what they want:
It's amazing how often customer service reps neglect to ask a customer what they specifically want. Customers will often express their complaints passionately and only give a vague description of what they are looking for. This is frustrating for both the customer and the representative. When frustration builds everyone becomes more uncomfortable.
When a customer service representative learns the specific needs to satisfy a customer there is a solid foundation for finding a solution. The solutions are often simple and the frustration easily avoided if you just ask them what they want.
(R) Realize the good in your life:
Some customers are unreasonably difficult because of issues that have nothing to do with you. Their life is complicated by divorce, health problems or financial crisis. They take the stresses of their life out on any individual that crosses their path. When dealing with an unruly customer step back and realize their behavior may be driven by extraordinary circumstances.
Don't take the negative vibes they direct towards you personally. Most importantly, count your blessing and realize all you have to be thankful for.
(D) Delete "but" and "however" from your vocabulary.
The words "but" and "however" negate any positive comments you may make to help calm a difficult customer. For example: if someone told you, "that is a wonderful suit but/however those shoes look awful," the only thing you hear is the negative. The compliment is completely over shadowed. The same is true in customer service. If you tell a customer, "you want to help but/however the company policy does not allow adjustments after 30 days," the only thing the customer hears is that you will not help. Avoid fueling heated situations with the words but or however. They only make your client feel you are being confrontational. Even worse, that you are saying they are wrong and you won't help.
"But" and "however" can simply be replaced by the word "and" or by a simple pause before making your second point.
Solutions vs. Problems:
When the majority of a conversation is about problems it is very draining on the rep and the customer. When the focus is on the problem most of the energy is on placing blame or giving reasons why things are incorrect. This makes everyone more uncontrollable and the situation more heated.
When the focus is on solutions everyone is happier because the energy is on making things right. It is much more pleasant to look at the good rather than the bad. After getting a handle on the customer's viewpoint, a positive tone will come from suggesting three solutions. The representative feels good that they are guiding the customer to a solution. The customer feels good because they are participating in how their problem is being resolved. Together, they come up with a solution that seems sensible.
By following each of these simple points you will disarm irate customers. By avoiding the common mistakes that spark a customers argumentative side many calls will become more pleasant. When customers recognize your effort to alien yourself with their viewpoints confrontations will be minimized and solutions will be achieved more rapidly. Best of all you can take pride in helping someone and in a job well done.
About the Author:
As the founder of AAA Training For Success in 1988, Mark Anthony has been training executives and sales teams on effective consultative selling and negotiating strategies. He lectures at conferences, Universities and corporate sales meetings. He is published in numerous business publications and has appeared on many radio and TV business programs including CNN-FN and CBS News. In addition he has taught sales and negotiating programs for the City University of New York and Learning Annex
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