July 29, 2014
“The customer is always right.”
That phrase has sold millions of books and been the topic of many a motivational speech. But ask anyone who deals with customers on a regular basis and they’ll tell you it’s wrong. Customers are not always right. They make mistakes. Some customers are dishonest. Some customers are chronic complainers and some are downright nasty. But no matter how unpleasant a customer is, it is not your job to prove they’re wrong or teach them a lesson.
The good news is that about 97 percent of customers are decent, reasonable people who just want to be treated with respect and feel appreciated for their business. They will sometimes become upset because a mistake was made, but they will generally forgive the error and continue to do business with you if the problem is resolved.
So what to do about the two or three percent of customers who can ruin your day with a single phone call? First, you need to remember that it’s difficult to keep all customers happy all of the time.
Here are some tips for dealing with customers who treat you poorly, use abusive language, yell at you or just make you feel awful:
Let your angry customer vent for a while.
When he or she comes up for air, offer to help. If your customer uses abusive or vulgar language, simply let him or her know that you’d be happy to help but you’re unable to do so under these conditions. Advise your customer that you will need to end the conversation. Before you hang up, encourage him or her to call back when they are calmer so you can help them to get the problem resolved.
Put emotional distance between you and your customer.
Your customer’s anger is not about you. It’s his or her problem so choose not to take it personally. Even nice customers can get angry when they feel a company has mistreated them. Do the best you can to let your customer know you care.
Don’t judge your customer based on a mistake.It really doesn’t matter whose mistake it was. You are not in your job to serve as a judge and jury every time a customer messes up. You don’t need to point out the error of their ways. Simply review the problem and work toward resolving it. We need to be forgiving of our customers just like we want our customers to forgive us when we make mistakes.
Treat even your angry customers with respect.
You don’t have to agree with your customer’s opinion. Most people just want to know that someone is willing to listen and actually cares about their concerns. They may be having a horrible day. Maybe they’ve been through a service nightmare with your company and they’re simply fed up by the time you get the call. Perhaps they are experiencing a personal tragedy and just taking it out on you.
When all else fails, give up.
Some customers will simply not give you the opportunity to fix their problems. If the same customer has a track record of abusive language and angry calls, it may be better to say “goodbye” to their business. This message needs to be communicated to the customer by your manager or business owner.
Learn to let go.
Don’t carry the baggage of one angry customer over to your other customers. They deserve to be treated with warmth and kindness. If a customer has upset you, get up and walk away for a few minutes. Get a drink of water, take some deep breaths and allow yourself to get neutral before you take that next call.
Regardless of a customer’s personality or communication style, he or she is still a customer. Your customers may not always be right, but they are the reason we’re in business. Most problems are the result of a lack of communication. Focus on helping the customer, not proving them wrong–even when they are. A kind word, a listening ear and respect will teach them a far greater lesson than pointing out the error of their ways.