Your business can rise or fall on your ability to manage dissatisfied customers.
News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good customer service experience.
When working with dissatisfied customer situations, a great place to start is by being honest with ourselves. As much as we may hate to admit it, most of the time there is a very legitimate reason for the customer complaint, and it’s our fault. We’ve made service promises that we have not kept and the customer is right to complain.
Treat the person, then the problem.
The first, most critical step, in any customer service situation is to treat the person first, then work on solving the issue. Why? Think about a time when you’ve been dissatisfied with a service or product that you purchased. On some level, it’s a bit of an emotional reaction for you, right? Perhaps you’re not screaming and yelling mad but you do, at a minimum, feel let down.
Treating the person has to do with trying to defuse their anger and give them a chance to settle down so that you can effectively solve their problem. If you try to skip that step and go straight to solving the problem, you can actually make the situation worse. If you skip this step, you run the risk of creating an explosive situation because you haven’t taken the time to listen, empathize, and show them that you understand how they are feeling and that you genuinely want to help.
So here are the three incredibly simple, yet critical, steps to treating the person first when you are working with a dissatisfied customer.
1. Listen Without Interrupting
When a customer has a negative experience, they’re going to have a little bit of a reaction to it. You start to see changes in the way that they look, speak, and behave. The really excited ones will start telling you all about it, and they’ll keep telling and keep telling you. At some point, it gets really tempting to interrupt them because you got it – you heard them loud and clear and you know what they are upset about.
The problem is that dissatisfied customers really want to be heard. They’re having a reaction to the situation and they need to vent that anger or frustration. Perhaps you’ve heard this complaint before (more on that in a later post), but to them is a singular, personal experience. Interrupting them, even if they are at the point where they are repeating themselves, only serves to put up a barrier to constructive communication.
“I apologize for the service breakdown.”
When that customer complains to you, do they think they deserve an apology? Absolutely! So when the first words out of your mouth are “I apologize…”, they’ve just gotten the first thing they wanted from you, and you are ready to move forward in the conversation.
Then you say, “I apologize for the service breakdown“, you’re acknowledging that the customer has a legitimate complaint even though we haven’t gotten into it yet.
Also, when you apologize, you are conveying that this is not normally how we do business. That it is an unusual failure in your process, and this gives the customer some assurance that they have made the right choice in their purchase and that their issue will be resolved.
3. Reflect the problem
The last step to take to ensure that you are treating the person before moving on to treating their problem is to show the customer that you understand the issue and how they are feeling. It’s fine to say it’s a service breakdown, but at some point you have to repeat back to the customer specifically what their issue is to demonstrate to them that you have heard their complaints, you understand the issue and how they are feeling, and that you are now ready to take care of the problem. Show them that you know it is a big deal and that you are taking responsibility for the breakdown.
At this point, you are much more likely to have a person that is calm and ready to work with you on the problem, and you are in a much better place to start treating the problem. This personalized approach to diffusing dissatisfied customers is just one of the practical leadership tools that our Bullet Proof® Manager clients tell us time and time again have helped them significantly improve their client relationship management and retention.