Turn dissatisfaction into satisfaction with these strategies.
One of Tim's most important clients has just walked into his office, unannounced.
Tim stands up with a smile on his face, ready to greet him, when the dam bursts – his client explodes into an angry tirade because Tim's organization has failed to make a delivery on time.
Because of this, the client was unable to demonstrate a key product, which meant that he lost an important sale.
Tim does his best to reason with his client, but nothing he says helps the situation. The client only gets angrier, shouting accusations and spiraling further into a rage. Within a few minutes he walks out, vowing never to do business with Tim's organization again.
Many of us have to deal with angry or unhappy clients as part of our roles, and it's never easy. But if we know what to say and, more importantly, how to say it, we may be able to save the situation. In fact, we can even end up with a better relationship with our client than we had before.
In this article we'll explore how to deal with angry or difficult customers. We'll highlight specific tips and techniques that you can use to smooth things over, so that you can leave them feeling satisfied.
Once you're aware that your client is unhappy then your first priority is to put yourself into a customer service mindset .
This means that you set aside any feelings you might have that the situation isn't your fault, or that your client has made a mistake, or that he or she is giving you unfair criticism .
All that matters is that you realize that your customer or client is upset, and that it's up to you to solve the problem. Adjust your mindset so that you're giving 100 percent of your focus to your client, and to the current situation.
The most important step in the whole of this process is listening actively to what your client or customer is saying – he wants to be heard, and to air his grievances.
Start the dialogue with a neutral statement, such as, "Let's go over what happened," or "Please tell me why you're upset." This subtly creates a partnership between you and your client, and lets him know that you're ready to listen.
Resist the temptation to try to solve the situation right away, or to jump to conclusions about what happened. Instead, let your client tell you his story. As he's talking, don't plan out what you're going to say when he's done – this isn't active listening!
Also, don't allow anything to interrupt this conversation. Give your client all of your attention.
Once he's had time to explain why he's upset, repeat his concerns so you're sure that you're addressing the right issue. If you need to, ask questions to make sure that you've identified the problem correctly.
Use calm, objective wording. For example, "As I understand it, you are, quite rightly, upset because we didn't deliver the samples that we promised you last week."
Repeating the problem shows the customer you were listening, which can help lower his anger and stress levels. More than this, it helps you agree on the problem that needs to be solved.
Once you're sure that you understand your client's concerns, be empathic . Show her you understand why she's upset.
And, make sure that your body language also communicates this understanding and empathy.
For example, you could say, "I understand why you're upset. I would be too. I'm very sorry that we didn't get the samples to you on time, especially since it's caused these problems."
Now you need to present her with a solution. There are two ways to do this.
If you feel that you know what will make your client happy, tell her how you'd like to correct the situation.
You could say, "I know you need these samples by tomorrow to show to your own customers. I will call our other clients to see if they have extras that they can spare, and, if they do, I'll drop them off at your offices no later than 5:00pm this evening."
If you're not sure you know what your client wants from you, or if they resist your proposed solution, then give her the power to resolve things. Ask her to identify what will make her happy.
For instance, you could say, "If my solution doesn't work for you, I'd love to hear what will make you happy. If it's in my power I'll get it done, and if it's not possible, we can work on another solution together."
Once you've both agreed on a solution, you need to take action immediately. Explain every step that you're going to take to fix the problem to your client
If she has contacted you by phone, make sure that she has your name and contact details. This gives her a feeling of control because she can get hold of you again if she needs to.
Once the situation has been resolved, follow up with your client over the next few days to make sure that she's happy with the resolution. Whenever you can, go above and beyond her expectations. For instance, you could send her a gift certificate, give her a great discount on her next purchase, or send her a hand-written apology.
Your last step is to reduce the risk of the situation happening again.
If you haven't already done so, identify how the problem started in the first place. Was there a bottleneck that slowed shipment? Did a sales rep forget to confirm an order?
Find the root of the problem and make sure it's fixed immediately, then consider using Kaizen to continue improving your work practices. Also, ensure that you're managing complaints and feedback effectively, so that you can improve that way that you do things.
Dealing with difficult customers can be challenging. But if you handle the situation well, you may even be able to improve your relationship, and create further opportunities.
Make sure that you listen actively to his problems or complaints, and resist the urge to interrupt or solve the problem right away. Be empathic and understanding, and make sure that your body language communicates this.
If you're not sure how to fix the situation, then ask your client what will make him happy. If it's in your power, then get it done as soon as possible. Follow up with your customer to make sure he was happy with how the situation was resolved.
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