One of the biggest challenges in business is dealing with an angry or disgruntled customer. Whether you’re answering an email, talking on the phone, or speaking in person, it can become intimidating and frustrating quickly.
But no matter what, your interaction needs to be calm and professional. Right or wrong, your customers are your business’s lifeblood – you need to approach the situation with patience and offer viable solutions to resolve their situation.
Handling these situations incorrectly can cost you not only the customer, but future business from word of mouth. But if you do it right – with some planning and practice – you can address the customer’s concerns confidently and come out with a stronger relationship for it. Here’s how.
Validate the Customer’s Feelings
When customers are angry or frustrated, the heart of the issue can get lost in the shuffle. The most important thing you can do is listen to the customer before speaking or reacting. You may feel defensive, but you can’t ascertain the problem if you’re waiting for your turn to talk.
After the customer tells you their problem, ask deliberate questions to get to the source of the issue. Taking the time to calmly and politely discuss it will give you an idea of how you can best handle it for them with a positive resolution.
Empathize with Them
Empathy goes a long way in your interactions with customers. It’s important to empathize with their situation and use the right language to acknowledge their feelings and find the source of the problem. This will show them that you understand how they feel and that you truly care about their experience, and you gain some insights from putting yourself in their shoes.
What’s the right language? Stay positive and understanding with phrases like, “I understand that this is frustrating.” Listen carefully to their issues and respond appropriately. They may forget the details of their bad experience, but they will remember how they were treated when they sought resolution, and that’s how you can build a strong customer service relationship.
Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes
Your natural reaction to criticism may be to get defensive or make excuses. It’s human nature. But when you’re handling customer complaints, it’s imperative that you take responsibility for any mistake you may have made. Listen to the customer’s issues, validate their feelings, and acknowledge their dissatisfaction. If you stifle them, they’ll only be more frustrated.
Instead, take responsibility by acknowledging the error, apologizing for it, and offering an appropriate resolution. For example, if you’ve shipped the wrong order to them, offer a replacement at no cost and make the return process seamless.
When you take responsibility, customers have the reassurance that their issues will be addressed rather than ignored. It also shows that your business values its customers and respects them.
Focus on Resolutions, Not Excuses
Customers aren’t always right, but there’s no sense in “winning” the argument by proving them wrong or putting the responsibility on them (even if it was their mistake). Instead of arguing, finger pointing, and going back and forth, shift the focus to finding a resolution that’s favorable to everyone.
For example, our customers for academic transcription services are busy people who use our service to reduce their workload. One of our goals as a business is to accommodate them as best we can through simplified communication, hiring the right people, and providing exceptional customer service.
If a customer calls and has a problem, we focus on how we can fix it immediately, not coming up with excuses or defense. No matter if it’s the night or weekend, we put all of our energy into fixing the problem, and by extension, building a better relationship with our customers.
No matter the business you’re in – if you need legal transcription services , or if you have to follow strict FBI security protocols like CJIS, it’s important to promote open communication and transparency. Both parties know what to expect during the process, giving customers confidence and trust that you have their best interests at heart.
Make Concessions When Possible
Sometimes, you may need to make concessions when you deal with disgruntled customers. This may mean acknowledging your error and offering discounts or free products, replacement products, or other compensation. In some cases, you may need to make exceptions to your company policy, such as with a strict return policy or warranty. Ultimately, these measures are worthwhile. When you take a proactive approach and offer concessions to the customer, it makes a world of difference in creating a positive experience.
Why is this effective? If the customer comes to you with a complaint, offering a discount or a free product ensures they feel satisfied with the resolution. Filing a complaint or contacting customer service takes time, after all, and you’re giving them something in return for their time and inconvenience.
Likewise, if the customer has a legitimate concern with a warranty policy or a return policy, it often works out best to make minor adjustments to satisfy them. For example, if there were extenuating circumstances that prevented the customer from returning a product in the allotted time frame, you benefit more from processing the refund than looking too rigid. This shows flexibility and helps to restore customer trust, delivering a satisfactory experience overall.
Follow Up with The Customer As Soon As You Can
A key part of the customer relationship is the follow up. After the complaint has been resolved, following up shows that you truly care about their satisfaction. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, and it goes a long way toward building a lasting professional relationship. Make sure to reach out and check in on the customer, ask if there are other concerns or issues, and if there’s anything else you can do to provide a satisfactory experience.
If there is something else they want or need, do your best to satisfy them. If not, you’ve still shown that they’re a valued customer and that you’re committed to building trust and rapport, gaining their feedback, and working with them in the future.
Don’t Let Customer Complaints Define Your Business
No matter how good you are at what you do, customer complaints are part of running a business. Most people don’t like criticism or conflict, but it’s invaluable to not only maintaining strong relationships with customers but helping you learn and grow. Every complaint is an opportunity to see your business through your customer’s eyes and make changes and improvements.
That said, don’t let customer complaints define your business. Part of the wisdom of dealing with challenging customer service situations is understanding what’s valid and what isn’t – some customers will be impossible to please. If you focus on validating their feelings, understanding their problems, offering a favorable solution, and taking steps toward preventing similar issues in the future, you’ve done your best as a business owner.
Customer Complaints Are a Gift in Disguise
Though you may dread them, customer complaints are important for getting feedback, improving your product or service, and earning your customer’s trust. The way you handle complaints can mean the difference between keeping a lifelong customer or losing one forever.
Author Bio: Ben Walker
Ben Walker is a CEO, entrepreneur, and visionary leader that enjoys helping others become successful in business and in life. Ben’s company, Ditto Transcripts, provides user-friendly and cost-effective transcription services for the medical, legal, law enforcement, and financial industries for organizations all over the world. Ben is a sought after thought leader and has made contributions to publications like Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc, Forbes, and the Associated Press. Follow Ben’s Tweets: @benjaminkwalker