February 8, 2019
Customers get angry for a variety of reasons—some justified, some not. Anyone who deals with customers will likely encounter rude or angry individuals once and awhile. How you respond can make the difference between a customer who feels satisfied with the resolution 1. and one who vows never to patronize your business again.
Talking to an angry customer is never easy but following these steps can help to put your customers at ease and show them that you want to help so you can get to a resolution much quicker. Handling angry customers is just part of the customer service industry but it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, helping customers find solutions to their problems can be quite rewarding and actually build loyalty when handled correctly.
Here are the 7 steps to follow when a customer complains:
1. Listen carefully to the person who is angry.
This requires active listening which means you need to stop what you’re doing to concentrate. An angry customer needs to know that they are being heard and that you are fully engaged in the conversation. Concentrate solely on what the customer is telling you. Make notes of the key facts and their concerns, so that you have a record of the conversation to refer to in the future.
2. Let your customer vent for a few minutes if necessary.
A really angry customer sometimes needs to vent their frustrations. Give them a chance to do so as long they are not using obscenities or abusive language. Don’t interrupt. Remain calm and in control. Above all, remember that you are representing your company and they are not attacking you personally.
3. Show empathy for your customer’s concerns.
Let them know that you sincerely care about the problem even if you don’t agree with their comments. If you or your company made a mistake, admit it. If it is a misunderstanding, you can respond in a supportive, concerned tone of voice, “I can see how that would be incredibly frustrating for you.” You are not necessarily agreeing with what the customer is saying, but respecting how he or she perceives and feels about the situation.
4. Thank your customer for complaining.
Yep. Even when customers are being a bit nasty, you can begin to change the tone of the conversation dramatically by sincerely thanking them for bringing the problem to your attention. This shows the customer that you genuinely care about what they are sharing and you appreciate the opportunity to resolve the problem.
5. Sincerely apologize even if you are not the cause of the problem.
It really doesn’t matter who caused the problem. Sometimes the customer is the one who made the error. What you are apologizing for is the fact that they are upset about the situation. An apology implies ownership. It lets the customer know that you are going to help them through the process. When said sincerely, the words “I’m sorry” can eliminate as much as 95% of a person’s anger. This will help your customer to calm down and be more open to problem resolution.
6. Get the facts.
Now that the customer has calmed down and feels you have heard his or her side, begin asking questions. Be careful not to speak scripted replies, but use this as an opportunity to start a genuine conversation, building a trusting relationship with your customer. To help you understand the situation, as open-ended questions to try to get as many details as possible.
7. Offer a solution.
This happens only after you have sufficient details. Know what you can and cannot do within your company’s guidelines. Making a promise you cannot commit to will only set you back. Remember, when offering a solution, be courteous and respectful. Let the customer know you are willing to take ownership of the issue and tell them what you are going to do to solve the problem. If an employee in another department is better equipped to fix it, help make the transition smooth by explaining the problem so your customer doesn’t need to repeat their story.
A quick follow-up phone call a few days later to make sure everything is okay is icing on the cake. Even a small gesture of compensation such as a simple upgrade on the customer’s next purchase or a small gift certificate can turn this interaction from anger to satisfaction. When you resolve customer complaints successfully, you will better understand their needs, retain them as loyal customers, and enhance your business. Every time a customer complains it gives us an opportunity to learn how we could have handled things better or differently in order to build loyalty. Remember, many of our silent, angry customers just go away. Apply the seven steps listed above. Then feel great about the positive difference you made in your customer’s day and your company’s success!