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Dealing with angry customers will test your professional maturity. You ability to recognize the situation for what it is and not take things personally will serve everyone involved very well - the angry customer as well as yourself. As a thoughtful leader you must rise above the emotions exhibited during any conflict so you can remain calm and strategic in how you respond.
The good news is that anyone can quickly learn how to master difficult customer scenarios and effectively turn a potentially volatile situation into a positive interaction.
As stated in part one of this series, your ability to listen to your customer will give you the insight you need to be able to empathize with their situation and determine the proper course of action.
Most importantly, listen and remain calm. As the irate customer is stating his case, take a few deep breaths as you work to listen for clues that might help you better understand what the primary issue is for the customer. Good air in, bad air out. :-)
Bottom line, if you become argumentative it will only further inflame the customer and the entire situation can quickly spiral out of control. Being listened to is sometimes all that an angry client is looking for, and that may be all that is needed to make the customer feel whole again.
In many cases dealing with angry customers simply means listening to them and demonstrating some level of empathy. However, most often there is some kind of specific remedy the customer has in mind so listen for clues as the customer is explaining his frustration about what has occurred.
Remember, it's not so important in the heat of the moment that you uncover for the customer exactly what went wrong. The past is truly the past, and neither you nor the customer can change it. Of course, later you'll want to take steps to ensure the same situation is not repeated, but that will be addressed after the customer in front of you is taken care of.
"A smile is a curve that sets things straight."
- Phyllis Diller
Right now, it more important to the angry customer that you understand what needs to be done to fix the issue and that you are personally committed to ensuring the situation is resolved in a timely manner.
The customer facing you seeks validation that his issue is serious and has merit. Whether you agree with him or not, you can emphasize that you understand the issue is important to the customer. How can you do that? Keep reading for a very simple answer to that very important question.
Your automatic response when dealing with angry customers - in fact, your instinctive response upon hearing the customers complaint should be:
"Mr. Customer, I understand your concern and I will do everything I can to help you."
Keep in mind that by saying this one little sentence, it does not mean that you personally will fix the issue or that you even agree with the complaint. It does mean, however, that you empathize with the customer, you understand his concern, and you will help him by either calling someone who can resolve the issue or escalate the issue to someone of higher decision-making authority.
If it's impossible to correct the problem at that moment then you have a wonderful opportunity to shine in the eyes of the customer. Quickly take ownership and let the client know what you will do to help ensure that he does not have the same experience again in the future.
If it's going to take some time because you need to research the issue, don't make the customer wait. In dealing with angry customers, you must be respectful of their time. Let the customer know that you will call them by end of day or first thing in the morning to give them an update on your progress.
Provide progress reports regularly until the issue is resolved. By communicating regularly, your customer will feel more at ease knowing you are taking the issue seriously and that you are working hard to resolve the matter. Even if you can't resolve the issue, the customer will at least feel validation as evidenced by your hard work and attention.
- Jerry Flanagan
Customers appreciate regular updates and they will be much more understanding should it take more time than originally expected to fix the problem. Make sure the customer has your direct line and/or has the ability to easily contact you should they have a need to do so.
There is no doubt about it, dealing with angry customers will always be one of the most difficult challenges you'll face in business. However, if you are properly trained and armed with the knowledge and skillset to respond with confidence, you can be effective at turning down the heat and turning a difficult situation around for both the customer and the business.
Once you know how to respond, you have a great chance of being the hero in the eyes of the customer. However, if you miss the opportunity to serve the customer, someone higher in the organization will hear about it and come to you asking what happened.
Remember your instinctive response in 99% of situations where you're dealing with angry customers - you can always say, "Mr. Customer, I understand your concern and I will do everything I can to help you."
Sounds nice, feels good, right?
"I understand your concern and I will do everything I can to help you." Ah, makes a person tingle all over. :)
Hold on, we're not quite done. See you in Part 3 of our series on dealing with angry customers.