No matter what industry you operate in, there’s always the possibility of you coming into contact with an angry customer.
Whether it’s because you’ve done something wrong, the customer has got the wrong end of the stick on a matter or they’re simply having a bad day, dealing with angry customers is something that is never welcomed (as proof of this, take a look at telephone Customer Service departments – most pay the people who deal with problematic customers more than general customer advisors).
Fortunately, as awkward as it may be at the start, dealing with angry customers is something that can be carried out in an effective and positive way in five steps.
The very first point you have to always keep in mind is to stay calm. When you’re confronted by an unsatisfied customer who is becoming angry, whether it’s in person, via telephone or by e-mail, it’s important that you take a few deep breaths and always think before you speak.It can be difficult to do this, especially if you’re not used to dealing with unsatisfied customers, but you’ll find it a whole lot easier to deal with them if you just take deep breaths and think positive throughout the whole conversation.
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Don’t rise to them
Whether you’re naturally a quiet person or not, if someone is shouting at you and using obscenities, there’s only so much you can take until your tolerance level disappears completely and you start rising to the person.Whatever you do, you have to ensure that you always, always act professional and never rise to them. No matter how personal they direct their abuse, the whole situation will generally be diffused a lot quicker if you keep your head.
Remember, you’re in charge
This is the point that a lot of people fail to forget when dealing with an angry customer. As the customer is likely to be forceful and dominant, it can make the person from the company that they’re speaking to be slightly taken aback and feel as though they’re back at school, being told off by a teacher.No matter how angry the customer may be, you have to always remember that you’re in charge. They’re contacting to make a complaint and want an answer, which in its basic form is a simple question and answer scenario, with the person who provides the answer naturally being the one that the person asking the question looks up to.You shouldn’t be pompous or overly-confident about this fact, just keep in mind that the customer will – even if it’s in the back of their mind – expect you to take charge of the situation at some point, so make sure that you do.
Don’t back down if you’re sure you’re right
The phrase ‘the customer is always right’ should always be at the forefront of your customer service procedure, but that’s not to say that it’s a rule that is set in stone.The easiest way to resolve a situation where the customer is angry is to give in to them and give them exactly what they want. However, not only could this cost you a lot of money, but if it turns out the customer is actually in the wrong, there’s a chance you’ll develop a reputation of giving in to customers, something which some customers will unfortunately use against you.There’s no need to come across as over-confident or self-righteous if you’re sure you are right, but if you are – and you’re 100% sure you are – stick to your guns. Explain why the customer is not correct and take it from there. They may voice their concerns officially in a written document and they may even threaten legal action, but as long as you’re certain you aren’t in the wrong, you can generally relax.
Arrange to contact them at a later date
If you get to the point in your conversation where you feel there isn’t going to be any resolution immediately, arrange to contact them after you’ve spoken to your colleagues. Simply explain that you’ve taken down their concerns, you’ll take their contact details and once you’ve spoken to your colleagues, you’ll contact them and hopefully have a solution that will satisfy both you and them.Remember, even if you’re a freelancer, it doesn’t mean you can’t explain that you’ll contact them at a later date after you’ve spoken to your colleagues – you may not have any colleagues in the traditional sense, but you’re likely to have people in the same industry as you that you speak to that you could discuss the issue with.Carrying out this point – even if the customer is in the wrong – gives you time to think about a solution that will please everyone. It may be a case of writing to them, stating that they are incorrect and explaining why or it could be a matter of an agreeing to, for instance, a partial refund if you believe it will diffuse the situation best, but this final step is the one that will give you the time to think about how best to resolve the situation.
As tempting as it can be to say to an angry customer that they’re wrong, you’re right and then end all forms of communication with them, this is never recommended as it can have a particularly detrimental effect on your business.
Whilst you should never have to put up with abusive customers, these 5 steps should be used to try and diffuse the situation in a way that will be of benefit to everyone.
This post was originally featured on August 10, 2010.