One area of customer service that has become a little more difficult these days when compared to yesteryear is dealing with angry customer complaints. In times gone by, companies would be able to deal with clients on a one-to-one basis, away from the gaze of the public eye. Now, though, with the rise of the Internet and social media, businesses have their work cut out.
But while the tools for dealing with Mr. and Mrs. Disgusted of Pasadena, CA, have changed, the methods of dealing with angry customers are pretty much the same. It is, however, more important than ever before to ensure you turn this hostile situation into something better. The way you respond will be the difference between that customer complaining about your company to 10-20 people they know or a client that is impressed by your customer service skills.
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at how you should be dealing with angry customers these days, whether they are on social media, in person, or on the phone. Let’s get started with the basics.
First thing’s first, it’s important to be able to recognize anger and irateness – and accept it. You might not like it – and neither might your employees – but this is the precise time and place for biting your lip and hearing a customer out. Rising to the bait never works – it tends to escalate the situation, and it’s never good for your reputation. There’s a good reason why reputation matters more than eating some humble pie. It’s because you will keep more customers, and maybe even gain a few. So, the old saying ‘the customer is always right’ may not be perfect, or accurate. But in the first exchange, it’s vital to assume that they are, at the very least.
Listen – properly
Hearing people is easy, but listening to what they are saying is another skill entirely. It’s not just the words they use, either – it’s also the emotions in their voices, the body language they use, and the tone of what they might be writing. Bear in mind that the last point is one good reason to take any conversation off social media or from the public eye as soon as possible. There are many things you can miss, and much can be misconstrued in the written form. Finally, once you have worked out the emotional state of the angry customer, be sure not to respond to them in an overly emotional way yourself. Also, ensure your employees are aware that the client’s anger isn’t directed at them – it’s not personal.
Patience is a virtue
Patience is one of the best skills a customer service advisor can have. It helps you listen, as highlighted above. And it also helps your clients feel like they have space and time to get their point across. Interruptions are not useful in any way, and might even cause friction and further tensions. It’s far better to wait out the customer’s outburst and then reply to them in a positive way. If you are speaking to a client in person, it’s probably worth pointing out that these emotional outbursts are likely to occur more than once. Again, it’s vital to display patience if you want to diffuse the situation.
It costs nothing to be nice and friendly when dealing with customer complaints, whether you are face-to-face, on the phone, or messaging via email. Not only will a customer feel like you are taking them seriously and being professional, but it can also be incredibly hard for people to continue to be angry with individuals who are just being nice. Speak softly, offer your advice and assistance, and in the vast majority of cases, you will find the customer will speak to you in a similar manner. However, it’s also important not to overegg the pudding. A never ending smile on your face when a customer is telling you a tale of woe could make things worse.
When a customer approaches your company with a problem, it’s important to own that problem. The fact is that it doesn’t matter how the issue has arisen, it is something that could affect your company’s reputation, and it’s down to you and your team to apply personal effort to fix things. One thing that customers hate is the passing on of responsibility. So, try to avoid ending up in a situation where you pass the customer on to another department or take their number for a manager to ring them back. It can be incredibly frustrating for them – as you have probably experienced in your personal life. Wherever possible ensure that you take responsibility, and take the decision to contact other departments, managers or other parties to resolve the problem yourself.
Not every problem can be solved after a single phone call or message on social media, of course. But in the vast majority of cases, you will be able to make amends pretty quickly. Speed is critical, especially if you are responding on social media. When so many eyes are on the issue, your business has an opportunity to show off your customer service skills, react fast, and resolve things as soon as possible. Anyone that sees the efforts you go to will hold that in high regard – far higher than the fact you had an angry customer in the first place, at the very least.
Finally, always offer a solution to a customer. Ask them what would make them happy, and have a think about whether it is a suitable outcome for their complaint. Sadly, many customers will chance their arm if they feel they can get something out of your business, and you will need to make a judgment call on the sort of response you feel is appropriate. That said, in many cases, it’s almost always worthwhile giving the customer what they want, within reason. It ends the situation there, and then, they go away happy, and with a little luck will spread the word about your company’s excellent customer service levels.