Whatever industry you work in there will be times when you have to deal with difficult customers. Customers will usually judge the level of service given on how you handle things when a problem occurs – handle a situation well and most customers will forgive and continue to do business with you.
We understand that this is sometimes difficult to do, especially when a customer is angry and upset. However, the first thing to remember is to deal with their feelings before attempting to deal with the problem.
Listen to what they have to say
Angry customers want to be listened to and know that their problems are being taken seriously, so let them have their say, regardless of whether you think they’re right or not. Stay calm, even if they’re ranting and raving, and try to maintain eye contact. Don’t grimace or smile, but if they make a valid point give them a nod. This shows the customer you’re interested in what they have to say. Do not interrupt the customer or make any comments at this stage.
Clarify what the problem is
Sometimes when you’re listening to the customer it will be clear what the problem is, for example something is late, hasn’t been delivered or doesn’t work. But when they’re venting a lot of anger you may need to ask some specific questions to get clarification. Once you have clarified the problem with the customer it will be easier to reason with them
Using a calm tone of voice and maintaining eye contact, tell the customer on behalf of the company how sorry you are and how you will do what you can to help. A calm demeanour, such as speaking slowly in a lower tone, will help the customer to calm down a little themselves. Approaching the customer calmly, even if they’re shouting, will help to diffuse the situation. Once the customer understands you feel bad about their problem and want to help, you’ll then be able to discuss what can be done.
Offer a solution
There are a couple of ways you can do this. If you think you know what the customer would be happy with, tell them what you’re prepared to do. If you aren’t so sure, or the customer isn’t happy with what you proposed, ask them what they would be happy with. If what they suggest isn’t possible, make sure you tell them that you can look at some other solutions.
Let the customer know what’s going to happen next. If you promise to call them back at a specified time with an update make sure you do, even if there’s no update at the time of the call. Once an agreeable solution has been offered that the customer is happy with, you must take responsibility to ensure it happens and the customer is satisfied.
Remember, above all else, you cannot have a business if you have unhappy customers. If you are getting regular complaints about a particular feature or problem, think about refining your product to eliminate that problem, improve the product and so attract more customers. If you are serious about adopting a customer centric approach to your business, your first stop should be Steve Blank and Bob Dorf’s book The Startup Owners Manual. You do not have to be a startup to benefit from the lessons therein.