Calming Irate Customers

This guest post is being contributed by Chris Blanton.
Do you remember the last time you were frustrated while making a purchase? Maybe you were talking with an unintelligible company’s customer service rep on the telephone. Or maybe a retail clerk was arguing with you. Perhaps a returns department refused your refund because you had lost the receipt. Regardless why you were upset, you wanted two things: someone to solve the problem, and a sincere apology for being disrespected.
Whenever you deal with an irate customer you must ascertain and resolve the initial problem while impressing upon them that you are aware of and never intended the perceived slight.
What if you think they’re wrong? Don’t disagree with them. Never argue with a client. You may win the argument but you’ll lose the sale, and the client. Worse, you’ll miss out on all their future business and all the future business of everybody that client ever complains to who chooses not to buy from you. So do your utmost to ensure a client always feels respected. Every shopkeeper knows the well-worn saw: “the customer is always right.” There are times when you have to jettison a client, and in a future post I’ll show how to do that so it doesn’t hurt your reputation.
At the same time don’t dwell on fault. Don’t consider whether the client’s demands are unreasonable, just solve their problem without opening yourself up to liability. How do you do that? Simple: empathize and accept ownership of the problem and bypass fault entirely. If the customer brings up blame, gently guide the subject back to how you’re going to resolve their problem. Recall the best customer service you ever experienced. The agent probably said something like: “I can understand why you feel that way. I’m sorry you were disappointed. Let me make it right.”
That’s all you need to say. No fault finding, just demonstrate concern and empathy. How you choose to make it right is up to you. What if you can’t make it right? One way is to show concession by bartering value. For instance, you could use a version of the discounted upsell – discussed in the previous post – to offer a customer a concession that might solve the problem. You save the sale and, as a bonus add profit to the bottom line. “This widget works great with this gizmo. Why don’t I knock $50 off that normally $100 gizmo for the difficulty?” The client doesn’t need to know the gizmo cost you only $5; the client only sees the $50 concession you made to keep their business and will often be satisfied.

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