January 10, 2014
If angry customers are on the phone (or worse, standing at the cash register) complaining loudly about a product or service they purchased from your company. They are also making disparaging remarks about your products and your business. How should you respond? What can you do to calm the customer and keep her from maligning your business to others? Here are 8 steps that will help you.
1 – Keep cool. Resist the temptation to raise your voice, be curt or rude, or defend your product and company. Doing any of those things will fuel the customer’s anger and make you look bad to anyone who is in earshot of the conversation. You’ll also stand the risk of the customer using social media to tell the world about how poorly she was treated when she complained to you about your product.
2 – Apologize. Even if there was nothing wrong with the product or service, tell the customer you’re sorry she’s unhappy with it. Be sincere. Don’t follow the words, “I’m sorry” with a phrase that starts with the word, “But.” This is not the time to deny the problem or to remind the customer of your “policy. It’s the time to acknowledge the customer’s dissatisfaction and show you care.
3 – Ask For Details. If she hasn’t already told you specifically what made her unhappy, ask for details, and be sure you listen attentively to the response. When the customer is finished, if the issue is even a little complicated, repeat the problem in your own words to be sure you’ve understood just what the customer’s concerns are.
4 – Work out a solution with the customer if possible. Does she want the item replaced or does she want a refund? Does the service you performed for her need to be repeated? If the customer says they never received an order that you know was shipped, check the shipping confirmations to find out when the item was delivered and who signed for it.
5 – Consider appeasing the customer even if they are wrong. If the customer is irate about something that’s would cost you little to resolve and you’ve never had a problem with the customer in the past, consider resolving the issue in their favor “this one time” just to maintain good will. Doing so may bring you far more in future profits than you’ll lose by issuing a credit or replacing an item.
6 – Explain your position. If, after listening attentively to the customer, there’s nothing you can do, politely explain why. “Unfortunately we can’t give you a refund, Mrs. Jones. I know you spent $350 on that handbag, but your puppy chewed off the handle and we can’t take it back that way ”
7 – Refer the customer to a manager. If the customer still believes you’re at fault, offer to have her speak with a manager. If you are the manager, and the issue is a matter of policy, consider whether the policy is really necessary, and what the implications would be for making an exception. For instance, is there a real operational need for your gym to require 2 week’s written notice before canceling a member’s monthly recurring membership? Or is that “policy” in place only to make a few extra dollars each month when members don’t remember to write a request to cancel their membership two weeks before the end of the month? If no one will be injured by making a policy exception, make the exception. Then rethink whether the policy is needed at all.
8 – Be firm, but polite when necessary. If this is clearly a problem the customer caused and the cost to you to fix it would be high, then calmly restate your position. Let the angry customers know you do value her business, but because of the circumstances there’s nothing you can do to fix the issue.
For more business insights and strategies, sign up for our free management newsletter, Moving Ahead.