Handling irate customers can be tricky. Learn how to do it right
When things go wrong, customers get upset. Sometimes they blow up in anger. Here are five steps to sanity when your customer is ready to “explode”!
Step One: Let them blow off steam!
No one is rational when they have pent up anger and emotion. Let your customer vent his rage and fury. Don’t take it personally, and don’t get in the way. Just open a pathway for them to let off the pressure.
Several years ago I had a real problem with a shipment by an express courier company. I called the company and got a reasonable sounding woman on the phone.
“You folks messed up!” I yelled.
“OK,” she replied in a very attentive tone.
“This was a really important shipment!” I continued loudly.
“OK,” she replied with concern.
“And my customer is going to be very upset,” I complained.
“OK,” she replied again a calm voice.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?” I finally asked, exhausted by my own tirade.
She paused a moment. “OK?” she asked gently?
“OK,” I replied, smiling at her quiet but effective approach. And then we began the process of identifying details needed to get everything worked out.
Imagine if she had asked me for all the information right away? In my anger, it would have taken twice as long to give her the details, and extended my frustration, too. Instead, she gave me the space and time to simply “blow off steam,” not taking it personally, allowing her angry customer (me!) to settle down.
Step Two: Show the customer you are “on his side.”
Let the customer know you are here to help, not to argue, defend or disagree.
Phrases like these will work: “Oh! I am really sorry to hear that. Can you tell me exactly what happened?” “I can certainly understand your frustration. Let me be the one to help you.”
Phrases to avoid are like these: “That’s strange. It’s never happened like that before. Are you sure that’s what happened?” “It’s not our policy to do anything over the phone. You have to write, fax or come in personally.”
Some words are triggers for angry conversations. Avoid phrases like these: “Who’s fault is this?” “Who is to blame?” “About your accusation…” These sound like phrases from a police investigation or a court case…which is NOT where you want to end up!
Step Three: Tell your customer exactly what you will do on their behalf.
Explain what steps you will take, and when you will get back in touch with the results.
Step Four: Take fast action!
Get the problem fixed. Resolve the misunderstanding. Communicate inside your organisation as a “champion” for the upset customer.
And when you do fix the problem, go the extra mile. Give them a bit more than they expect. They will remember and appreciate your efforts.
Step Five: Go back to the customer and explain how the problem has been resolved.
Ensure they are fully satisfied, and thank them for allowing you to help.
But wait! What about the customer who curses and screams, threatens and throws things about? What do you do with a genuinely abusive customer?
An upset customer should never be an abusive customer. If you encounter an irate customer who threatens, insults or barks foul language, use a phrase like this to calm them down: “Sir, I am here to HELP you. But it’s hard for me to HELP YOU if you keep speaking to me that way.”
Try this several times. If they continue berating or attacking you personally, simply say: “I would really like to HELP you, but I cannot when you speak to me this way. If you will calm down, I can help you now. Otherwise, please call me again later.”
If they calm down, then help them. If they continue the abuse, hang up.
Always remember this: An upset customer tells a lot of people about their problems. But that same customer, when truly satisfied by your assistance, can become a great promoter, too.
“Positive word of mouth” is precious for your business: be sure that you deserve it.
Copyright, Ron Kaufman (). All rights reserved. Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed innovator and motivator for partnerships and quality service. He is the author of the best- selling book, “UP Your Service!” and the free monthly newsletter, “The Best of Active Learning!” For more information and free copy of the newsletter, visit