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How to Handle Irate Customers . . . and Win Them Over For Life

By friend of TSE, John Tschohl

How The Self-Employed Can Best Handle Irate Customers

Most of us have been there at one time or another and more than likely don’t want to ever go back.  Whether it was over the phone or in person, and regardless if a product was flawed, a delivery was late or a charge was inaccurate, dealing with an irate customer isn’t fun in any situation. How you deal with that customer will determine how he or she feels about your organization and more importantly how you feel about yourself.

When you are able to turn an irate customer into a satisfied one, you will gain confidence in your ability to defuse a volatile situation and to evoke a positive outcome.

You will see that the customer’s complaint is actually an opportunity for you to put your best foot forward.

When most small business people come in contact with an irate customer, their first instinct is to turn and run. Dealing with a customer who has a problem and is upset about it can be more than a little daunting. With the proper perspective, however, you will see that the customer’s complaint is actually an opportunity for you to put your best foot forward.

Customers who have complaints are a blessing in disguise.

They are letting you know where you and your organization have flaws, and are providing you with the opportunity to correct them. When you do, you will see increased customer loyalty, revenues and profits. It’s a win/win situation. In fact, you should be more concerned with the customers who don’t complain than with those who do.

Dealing with irate customers and solving their problems is a critical element of providing great service. When dealing with an irate customer, consider these steps:

  • Listen carefully and with interest to what the customer is telling you.
  • Apologize without laying blame, regardless of who is at fault.
  • Put yourself in the customer’s place, and respond in a way that shows you care about his or her concerns. Use phrases such as, “I understand that must be upsetting,” or “I don’t blame you for being upset; I would feel the same way.”
  • Ask pertinent questions in a caring, concerned manner, and actively listen to the answers.
  • Suggest one or more alternatives that would address the customer’s concerns.
  • Solve the problem quickly and efficiently, or find someone who can.

Using these steps will quickly calm most unhappy or angry customers and allow you to address and solve their problems. Patience and tact is the key.

It’s important when a customer is making outrageous statements and throwing a fit that you remain calm. Do not take those statements personally. Apologize, take the blame, and empathize with the customer. Then go and solve their problem.

What you Should Not Do With An Angry Customer

Just as important as what you should do, there are four things you should not do:

  • Don’t directly challenge someone who has a complaint and is angry. Even if that customer is wrong, don’t attempt to prove it. Your goal is to solve the problem, not to enter into a debate on the merits of the complaint.
  • Don’t let the conversation wander or get off the topic. Solve the crisis at hand without looking for, and finding, additional problems.
  • Don’t participate in fault finding. Shifting blame doesn’t help anyone.
  • Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way. Stay cool and use courtesy and tact to defuse the situation.

When you successfully handle irate customers and their complaints, you will be rewarded with a satisfied customer who will be loyal to you and your organization. That loyalty will have a positive impact on your organization’s bottom line and make you look like a hero.

John Tschohl is a customer service strategist, has been instructing and motivating employees, managers, supervisors and company CEO’s for 39 years.  He’s called the “Guru of Customer Service” by USA Today, TIME and Entrepreneur Magazines.  He is a best-selling author of six books including his latest release, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service.  Tschohl is president of The Service Quality Institute, the global leader in customer service training and development.  Visit http://www.johntschohl.com/ and http://www.customer-service.com/

 

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