Customers Get Angry
One of the greatest concerns of any customer facing employee or manager is the dreaded irate customer. You know the one; this is the customer that comes charging into your business with a scowl and has beads of sweat running down his face because he is so angry or upset about what your company just did to him.
As a manager or employee about to deal with this client your mindset might just be “get ready, here comes a fight”! If this is what you are thinking, STOP immediately. Certainly it is important to recognize when an issue is about to arise but meeting resistance with resistance will only lead to both parties ending up upset.
Instead you should recognize that you have a client that may be angry but instead of thinking about the upcoming fight, think about how you can improve the situation and possibly even help the customer.
The problem is when a customer is extremely angry you may not get to the meat of the issue for some time while the customer vents his anger. If you interrupt abruptly or become defensive the person standing in front of you is likely to become even more angry or upset, so what do you do?
Find a Place to Step in
While you don’t want to blatantly interrupt, you cannot let a client go on and on complaining because it is not productive. As the person dealing with this person it is up to you to find a good place to start establishing a two way communication with this client.
Often this opportunity will come when they take a breath or stall for a moment while thinking of more reasons to complain. This can provide you with an opportunity to step in and start taking over the conversation in order to help the customer.
Show Some Understanding
With an angry customer who is telling you how terrible your company is and how poor your services are it is important to get to the root of the issue. The problem is they are busy complaining and you have just found a perfect time to step in but what do you say?
I have always felt that the 1st thing that should happen is that you can show some understanding and empathy to help bring the customer back to why they came to you, a resolution. It also helps them realize that despite their anger, you are really there to help them with the issue.
An opening line such as “I can see why this is bothering you” or “If that happened to me, I would be upset too” is both understanding and provides an opening for the next step of the process.
I stay away from things like “I understand” or “I’m sorry”. I understand provides them an opening to start all over again, for example; “No! You don’t understand, this issue has been ongoing for six months!” or “You’re sorry? Darn right you’re sorry and so is your whole company!” You want to stay away from creating an opening for them to insult you or for them to begin complaining again
Probe for Information
In order to get a resolution you need to get the details of what the issue is. So far you have just had complaints and you have managed to find an opening to show a little bit of concern. You have to ask a probing question now in order to start finding out what the issue is so you can decide what to do next.
For instance, a general question might be “What exactly is the issue with the service you are receiving?” This question asks for details by using the word exactly and can help drawing information out of the customer. Another example for someone selling electronics could be “So what is the product doing or not doing and when did it start?”
These questions start the digging process and you can then determine if this is a known issue, which usually has a predetermined solution, or a unique issue at which point you have to find a new solution. Either way you are working on the problem and you are probably no longer being berated.
Putting it All Together
Now that you have a couple of pieces, let’s see what it looks like when you put it together.
The customer comes in complaining about the cellular phone they bought 3 weeks ago. He goes on and on discussing loudly how the phone is garbage and the service is unreliable. You have no idea what the exact problem is.
Is it the service area? Is it the phone? Is it user error? Is it some other issue?
After 30 seconds of complaining the customer stalls for a moment so you step in and say “Your phone not working properly is definitely an issue, let me see if I can help with that. What is happening when you try to use that phone?”
Now you can begin getting to the information that is needed to fix his issue, he is probably calmed down a notch or two and you have a chance to look like a hero if you can solve his problem.
Communication is a skill that employees, managers and even customers sometimes lack. By showing a bit of empathy and verbalizing it and asking a probing question you can usually save a customer and maybe even earn a loyal fan or you and your service for years to come.
About the Author:
Pete Kontakos is experienced as a General Manager in the retail industry and restaurant industry and has also served as a District Manager. Pete also enjoys discussing sports, martial arts, vitamin supplements and is a certified wrestling coach through USA wrestling.