3 Ways to Handle Your Unhappy Customers

Contributor:  Kristina Evey
Posted:  10/18/2012  12:00:00 AM EDT
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Unhappy customers. We've all had them. Some yell, some cause a scene, some silently simmer. Believe it or not, it is a very good thing to have a customer that is unhappy because you have the opportunity to regain their trust and even turn them into one of your most loyal customers ever.

Did you know that customers understand, and sometimes even expect problems or mistakes to occur? They know that you are human. The critical thing is to handle it well. Customers are much more likely to work with you through the resolution process if you handle the mistake recovery process properly and work in their best interest.

So before you start to panic when that next unhappy customer storms into your office or calls you on the phone and has already told the receptionist that they are very upset, stay calm and follow these simple steps.

1) Apologize Immediately

Even if you aren't at fault, the apology is crucial. Now keep in mind, it is very possible to apologize without taking the blame. Everyone who has ever felt wronged really wants to hear a genuine apology. When you or someone in your company has made a mistake, it goes without saying that you need to accept responsibility and apologize.

"Mrs. Smith, I'm so truly sorry that I forgot to file those papers on time."

In the case when it is not your fault, or even the customer's fault, and they've contacted you to vent or to resolve the issue, here is my suggested wording...

"Mrs. Smith, I'm so sorry that this situation is happening."

Notice that you are not saying that the situation is out of your control, that the customer should have filed the papers on time, or placing blame wherever may be appropriate. You are expressing true apologies for the situation and that is exactly wha the customer needs to hear.

2) Use Empathy

Empathy is the golden piece of this equation. Saying sorry is a great start, but it simply isn't enough. The customer appreciates the apology, but they really want to know that you feel their pain. Keep in mind that the customer is usually more irritated by the need and time necessary to resolve the situation than the issue itself.

"I know it is really frustrating when the process is delayed due to paperwork and logistics. You wanted to get this taken care of and now you are forced to wait. I'm sorry."

Throwing in an additional apology at the end is always a good choice, but the most important thing is that you are letting the customer know that you understand what they are most frustrated about and that you identify with what they were trying to accomplish.

3) Make it Better Than Right

This is crucial. Not only do you need to fix the problem, you need to do it in a way that not only makes up for the initial problem, but also makes the customer feel good about it. My suggestion is to offer the customer no more than three solutions, all of which you are confident will work in their best interest.

Should you find yourself challenged to come up with an acceptable fix, simply ask the customer what they would like to see happen. You'll be surprised to see how reasonable they actually will be. Often times, they'll ask for far less than you were prepared to have to offer.

Bonus Tip - Follow Up on the Resolution

This is your time to shine. Not only have you fixed the problem to their satisfaction, now you are going to go the extra mile to truly show how much you appreciate their business. You are going to call them within a few days to again apologize for the situation happening and to find out how they are doing with the resolution. This is when they will thank you for the follow up, your help in resolving the issue, and really give you some honest feedback that you can apply.

This may also be the time that you discover the resolution did not work or they are still not happy. Go through the process again and work with them until they are.

Learn more about Kristina Evey and her work at www.kristinaevey.com

Kristina Evey Contributor:   Kristina Evey


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