Occasionally, into each life, a little rain must fall… in this case, the “rain” is an unhappy customer; this isn’t an “if”, it is a when. When you are in business, and you deal with customers, be it internal customers (employees), external customers (paying customers and clients), or your service partners (distributors, vendors, etc) – eventually someone will feel unheard, uncared for, or mistreated. Should this unhappy customer ruin your day? Quite to the contrary… if this person takes the time, energy, and effort to speak up and air their grievances – you owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
Angry or frustrated customers have two choices… they can speak up, or they can leave you and never do business with you again. Our immediate reaction, as humans, is to try and determine if this customer’s anger is justified. Guess what… the reason that they are angry isn’t at issue… There is no blame here. You are hearing the customer’s perception and experience of the events, and that is all that matters to them.
At this point, you have the opportunity to surprise, delight, and UPLIFT this customer. You can take control of the situation and win this relationship back, turning this customer into an advocate for life…. OR… you can lose them (and all of the friends with whom they will share their story…). And how can you do this? It’s easy .
First and foremost, this customer does not want a full scale investigation of what went wrong. They don’t want a long drawn out discussion of the events. The upset customer wants to be heard. Let me repeat this most important fact. The upset customer wants to be heard. THEN, when they feel heard, they want you to make the situation right. This customer wants the confidence that they had in you and your business BEFORE the event occurred to be restored. Ideally they want to feel even BETTER about you and your organization than they did before, based upon the way you handle their issue.
The Six Steps to Uplift Angry Customers:
1. Thank them for their feedback. Let them know that the time and energy they took to help you is incredibly valuable. Assure them that you honor them for being willing to share their experience.
2. Empathize with their frustration. They want to be understood, and they want to feel justified in their beliefs. This doesn’t require a long drawn out discussion of similar situations that you have experienced. Typically, a well placed phrase like “I can well imagine how frustrating this must have been for you” …will do very nicely. (Be sure to be genuine about this, or you could sound patronizing.)
3. Acknowledge that you don’t know all the details. Ask them to outline the occurrences that led to their displeasure. Assure them that you are already looking into the details of what happened, and the more information they can provide, the more quickly you will to be able to repair the problem.
4. Apologize. Not just a quick “I’m sorry” but a careful and heart-felt apology for the frustration they have experienced. Remember, they are taking time to help you improve your business. Let them know, in a genuine way, that you are sorry you let them down. (Even if it was not your fault, you can still apologize for the inconvenience, displeasure or discomfort they have experienced.)
5. Take Action. This is truly what the customer wants to know: what are YOU going to do about it? This is when you can plan to surprise and delight the customer. Your next action will be what the customer remembers. This is no time to skimp. You are working to win back a customer. (And yes, some customers take advantage, but I believe that most do not.) You need to WOW them. And after you have surprised, delighted and UPLIFTED this customer? Then ask yourself “What else can I do for him/her?”
6. The last step? Follow UP! You want to follow up with a phone call, or if this is an internal customer or someone especially important or nearby, then follow-up in-person. When you are resolving their issues, be sure to ask “Do you mind if I follow up with you in _____ time to make sure we got this right?”. After you bounce back with a great service recovery – that is the time to make double sure they are still feeling delighted with you.
Follow these simple steps and you can take back the control of this situation, turn an angry customer into a brand advocate, and even learn new things about your business that you didn’t already know! See how valuable an irate customer can be?