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7 Steps to Soothe Your Unhappy Customers

Posted on Mon, June 15,2015 @ 3:09 AM

Every organization experiences unhappy customers. How they are dealt with can make or break your customer service reputation, even more so than the bang-up job you may be doing with the majority of your happy customers.

The interaction should begin with the “customer is always right” mentality. That attitude may evolve with more information, but you won’t get to that point in a comfortable, professional manner if you begin the conversation on the defensive – or offensive.

Before we get to the steps, do note that we are referring to unhappy customers, not “unruly” or “bad” customers.

Unruly customers can require “kid gloves” treatment or physical removal, bouncer-style. Bad customers aren’t always right, and they are rarely right for your business – but that's a topic for another blog.

So, say a frowning customer, Bob, confronts you during a break at your event, or you get a call from your client Sue and her tone is a giveaway that she isn’t happy. What do you do? Follow these proven seven steps to turn those customer frowns upside down and in the process, possibly improve your organization.

1. Listen.
Let the customer have their say – even when you know what they are going to say or they don’t have all of the information or they are just plain mistaken. Don’t talk over them. Don’t argue with them. Don’t get defensive with your body language or tone. Nod, smile when appropriate, and use the opportunity to gather information.

2. Empathize.
It’s always wise to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, especially so when they are disgruntled. Your product or service didn’t live up to their expectations – identify why, acknowledge their issue, and express that you understand their situation and frustration. The customer wants to feel better understood, and the more you empathize, the more you become an advocate as opposed to a vent with ears.

3. Apologize.
It may not be in everyone’s playbook, but an apology in the initial stages of the conversation can disarm the customer, calm them down and let you get down to resolving the problem. It can be done without admitting wrongdoing (if they are mistaken), e.g. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience” or “I’m sorry you had this experience.” Saying “I’m sorry you are having this issue, let’s see how we can fix it” can go a long way to getting past the emotions and onto finding solutions.

4. Discern.
While you’ve been listening, empathizing and even apologizing, you’ve surely been thinking. You’ve identified the problem. If it’s a case of them not having all of the information, you have formulated how you want to present the “whole story.” If they are simply mistaken, you’ve established a sympathetic rapport that has them more willing to listen when you break that news. And if you’ve determined that something is indeed wrong with your product or service, articulate how you intend to address the issue.

Note: While it’s never fun to learn your product or service failed in some regard, smart organizations view such revelations as an opportunity for improvement. They turn a negative into a positive by fixing the issue and in some cases, using the experience to market themselves as responsive and customer-centric.

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."
Bill Gates


5. Negotiate.
If you succeeded at steps 1-4, you put the customer at ease, erased any animosity and established yourself as an advocate. Ideally, you also identified what specifically the customer desires to fix the issue. At the same time, you’ve thought through your organization’s procedures and practices, and either determined what you can do on the spot to resolve the issue or what the next steps might be. Talk it out. Reach an amicable agreement. If you can’t or don’t have the authority, make that clear. You want to best serve the customer, but you also don’t want to offer something you can’t deliver or set a potentially costly precedent.

6. Summarize.
By this step, you’ve likely moved from damage control to customer retention. Summarize your discussion and next steps to reinforce that you’ve listened to the customer, agreed upon the issue and its cause, and if appropriate, taken certain steps to resolve the problem. This is a simple step to put all of your customer service efforts delivered throughout the conversation into a neat little package that shows you care.

7. Follow-up.
Finally, put a bow on that package. Follow-up with the customer in the next day or two to do any of a number of things depending upon the situation and resolution: thank them for bringing the issue to your attention; inquire if they are content with the resolution; or ask them if there is anything else you can do to better serve them.

Those are seven common sense steps to deal with unhappy customers, mollify their negative feelings and usually resolve their issue. The tactics aren’t fool proof, but if you deal with unhappy customers, you’ve learned to think on your feet. In fact, you might be able to add to the conversation with sharing other tips that work for you. Please share your ideas or thoughts about this article in the Comments section below.

If you would like to know more about dealing with unhappy customers (admittedly, our experience at ABC Signup is somewhat limited, but most of us have worked for other employers prior to ABC) – or just want to know more about ABC Signup or registration software in general – contact us by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email at your convenience.




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