Few things are as stressful to a business owner or client support representative as an angry customer.
Here are techniques that will help you navigate this difficult terrain, so you can protect your company, strengthen your relationship with your current customers and make yourself more attractive to potential customers:
Don’t get Angry and Defensive
If you’re accused of something and feel like you’re under threat, it’s natural to want to defend yourself and prove yourself to be correct.
But if you want to reconcile with your unhappy customer and preserve the integrity of your company, then it is important not to treat your customer as an enemy or place your ego above their concerns.
Stay calm and polite, and note that your aim is to please, not to silence them.
Take Responsibility for Your Part in Creating the Problem
If there was a misunderstanding, explain to them and say something like, “I can see how my words may have come across the wrong way. That wasn’t my intention and I apologise for the mix-up. What I really meant to say is that…”
This helps you clarify things, without turning it into a debate about what you have said and have not said.
Or, if there was an error in your product, service or schedule, tell them, “I’m sorry for (the error you made). It’s very important to me that you get the value of what you paid for and I want to make it up to you.”
This is where professional indemnity insurance will come in extremely useful. Taking responsibility isn’t always enough as sometime people will want claim you and without professional indemnity cover you will find this an extremely costly affair.
Ask Questions and Seek Understanding
This may sound counterintuitive because it’s normal not to want to know more when someone says bad things about you. However, the first step towards reconciliation with another person is to understand why they are upset and to show that you care about their concern.
So instead of trying to silence the angry customer, find out why they’re unhappy and do your best to understand the root of their grievance. Also, inquire if there are any other issues they have had with you or with your company.
This shows you’re genuinely committed to ensuring they have a good experience with you, and it gives you the opportunity to reveal and deal with any hidden sources of frustration that might otherwise compromise your relationship and their view of your company.
It also gives you an opportunity to understand and improve your processes, so you can better serve your future customers.
Pay Attention to What the Customers Say
One mistake I’ve seen even large companies make is to inadvertently make it clear over and over again that they haven’t really listened to the questions and concerns of their consumers.
If you or your customer support team have a lot of incoming mail, phone calls, feedback or tickets to answer, it can be tempting to cut corners and simply skip messages rather than paying attention to each one.
However, that approach tacitly communicates to your customers that you don’t care about them, while you also risk losing the confidence of your customers and potential customers in your willingness and ability to deliver a quality service.
Offer a Concrete Solution
If you missed a call due to a time zone misunderstanding, set up a system to ensure the next time you both talk about the same time zone.
If there was a flaw in your product, either tell them how to repair it or send a replacement.
If something you said upset them, propose a way you can more courteously address the offending subject in the future, and ask if that would work for them. Also, inquire if there are any other t other issues that may have concerned them.
Whatever the nature of your mistake or misunderstanding, by putting forward a practical, specific solution, you’ll be demonstrating that you are taking the problem seriously and that you are committed to giving your customers the best possible experience and service.