Goal: Turn the Negatives into Positives
- Your ultimate goal when dealing with a difficult customer is to turn them from angry to satisfied. You want every customer to come back to your business, including the angry ones. This can only be done by understanding their complaint and resolving the issue quickly and efficiently. Fixing a problem will leave the angry customer feeling positive about your business and will encourage them to return.
Keep Emotions in Control
- It is imperative to be polite to angry customers. They have the benefit of the doubt. Take the time to listen to their complaints. Irate customers may spend a few minutes venting about your business before telling you what is wrong, so keep your emotions in check and hear them out.
- No matter the circumstance, don't feed off their feelings. Turning cranky and rude towards your customer will only feed their fire. Stay calm, collected and focused on fixing the situation.
- Breathe deep and smile with an approachable stance. Keeping your arms crossed, for example, gives the idea that you are not receptive to their concerns.
- Do not take the complaint personally. The difficult customer is unhappy about a specific product or an aspect of your company, not you specifically.
The Blame Game
- Avoid blame as much as possible. Under no circumstances should you blame the customer. Blaming the customer will only increase their anger towards your business and service. If an obvious mistake has been made by the customer, correct it without talking down to the customer.
- Realize that mistakes happen. Inventory doesn't always go according to plan, shipping has delays, and emergencies arise. You simply cannot prevent problems that are out of your control. Apologize for the inconvenience and see what you can do for the customer.
- Ask as many questions as possible. Find out exactly what their problem is so you can find a reasonable and quick solution. What went wrong? How can you fix this problem? What does the customer want you to do to resolve the problem?
- Honestly describe to the angry customer what you can and cannot do to help resolve their problem. Explain to the customer that some things are out of your control, but that you want to do all that is possible to help.
- Acknowledge their anger. Responding to their venting with something as simple as, “If this happened to me I would be upset as well,” shows that you are listening to their problem and can relate to their frustration. By placing yourself in the customer's shoes you will have an idea of what you can do to resolve their problem.
Work It Out
- Resolve the problem as best as you can. It may take a few phone calls or e-mails to get all the information you need to fix the problem, so give your customers a realistic time frame. The sooner, the better.
- Be honest! Never make any promises that you cannot keep. This will only add to the customer's anger and lead to further problems down the road.
- Follow up with the customer until all their needs are met.
The bottom line is the customer may not always be right, but you need to treat them as if they are. A difficult customer is a test of your businesses' system of checks-and-balances. An unhappy customer is a sign that there is a problem within your company, so pay attention. Learn from these customers, and appreciate them as they are, after all, helping your business improve.