How many times have you been singed by customers who feel they're the victim of your store's mistake and let you know about it in a not-so-nice manner? How you respond to and recover from those situations will determine whether you hear from them again. It also determines what they will say about you to their peers-your potential customers.
Customers have pre-determined expectations about a product or service. The finished product or service creates a perception. When the perception is less than their expectations, they feel they have been cheated. Customers define value in their own terms, not yours, and no matter what their perceptions are, those perceptions are the only relevant reality. You must build that perception back up to an even greater level than was originally expected in order to satisfy them. An irate customer who is satisfied often becomes very loyal and a source of future profits.
We all know free word-of-mouth advertising is the best kind. On the flip side, irate customers' talk about your company is the worst advertising you can get. Here are some ways you can respond to regain an angry client's loyalty and business.
Be diplomatic. Whether customers are justified in the way they are acting is not the issue. In their mind, they are right. The way you immediately respond is vital to easing the situation.
Remain calm. Most likely, they are mad at the situation, not at you. Put your personal feelings aside. Arguing with an irate customer is a no-win situation!
Hear them out. They are angry, and they need to vent that anger. They have been wronged before and know the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” You need to know what their problem is, so listen.
Empathize. Empathy is the ability to feel as the other person feels. Your objective is to identify their feelings and let them know you truly understand. Say, “I am sorry that happened.” Customers want to hear those words.
Be aware of your voice. Becoming loud as they get loud only exacerbates the situation. Speaking in a calm, slower voice with a soothing tone calms them and shows you are concerned.
Get the facts. Collect as much data as you can. Write it down. This shows the customer you care and prevents you from forgetting important information.
Inspect as soon as possible. Don't speculate. Inspect the product or circumstances in question, and analyze the facts before deciding what must be done.
Explain possible solutions. If there is more than one solution, explain the options thoroughly to them. It is better to over communicate than to under communicate.
Have them agree on the solution. Often, customers assume the situation is being resolved in the way they want, but find out later it is not.
Thank them for bringing it to your attention. This is where you can gain a competitive edge. Very few businesses do this. It shows them you really care.
Correct the situation immediately. Do what you said you were going to do, as agreed upon, in the manner you explained, within the time frame you stated. This is critical to their satisfaction!
Follow up with a phone call or visit. This is where you can gain another edge. It may just be the one thing you can do to get that customer back. Remember: Customers who complain, but are later satisfied, will become repeat customers and will let others know you came through in the end. —Bob Losyk is a Greensboro, N.C-based Certified Speaking Professional, author, and consultant. This article is excerpted, with permission, from his book, Managing a Changing Workforce: Achieving Outstanding Service With Today's Employees. For more information, visitwww.boblosyk.comor call 800.995.0344.