You have a great team, harmonious culture, and a proven customer serving strategy. What could go wrong? Frankly speaking… shit happens. However, anytime there are people involved (on either side of the equation), situations can be unpredictable and you can end up with a disgruntled customer.
Even with the best-laid plans delivered by the world’s best people, you cannot account for how customers use or experience your product or service.
You also cannot account for what’s going on in your customer’s life. What was happening before they had the issue with your organization? They may have been up all night with a sick child, been stuck in traffic for a couple hours, …
Dealing with a Disgruntled Customer
This issue is a big topic. There have been countless books written on dealing with a disgruntled customer. It can be complicated. Let’s simplify it with the following ‘De-Escalation Tips’:
- Listen. Often when a disgruntled customer is venting, they just want someone to listen. And by listening, I’m not referring to ‘Hearing.’ I’m referring to actually listening to what they are saying. When most of us are so-called ‘listening,’ we are actually thinking of what we’re going to say when the person in front of us finally stops talking. Stephen Covey said it best: “When you are listening, resist the urge with every ounce of your being to think about anything but what the person is saying to you. Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
- Never take it personally. Stress in a conflict situation only comes when you take it personally. When someone is ‘dumping on me,’ I say to myself: “this person is having a bad day. Things in their day must have gone terribly bad for them to be angry like this.” If this fails, I resort to saying to myself (again on the inside!): “I have lived through teenagers. I only have one feeling left and I am saving it for a special occasion!” The latter always allows me to realize that the person is not attacking me. They just need the expert superpower I possess to solve their problem!
- Never say “it is not my fault!” Nothing pisses a customer off more and escalates the situation more than telling an already escalated individual that the situation is not your fault! Even if it is not (and I understand, it probably isn’t), take ownership! Major de-escalation tip… Tell them you understand their situation. Let’s work to solve the issue. At the end of the day, a disgruntled customer JUST wants to feel that you understand and, you are going to work with them! Need a real-life example of what NOT to do, watch the video of me on a stage in front of a few hundred-people telling them my famous Lufthansa story.
- Ask my ‘Magic Question.’ When the customer is finished explaining the problem they have and… your script, processes or recovery strategy does not have a good solution for the customer, ask them: “What does good look like to solve this?” 99% of the time, your customer will come up with a solution that makes them happy, doesn’t break the bank and, super important, turns the customer into a positive advocate out there in the big world around us – advertising that you just can’t buy!
- Execute the recovery plan. Once you have solved the issue – because after all, you ARE a problem-solving superhero – make sure the solution gets executed damn it!
- Follow up. Find a way to loop back to the customer and make sure they received your agreed upon solution. If they are gushing about your magical, rock star like abilities to make their life close to nirvana, ask for a referral!
- It’s all about Attitude! You can choose to think of serving unhappy customers as big and hairy and scary or… you can think of it as a challenge that only you, the one person out of seven billion on the planet that is creative enough to do so! You get to choose!
Robert Murray is a Vancouver, BC based Business Strategy Consultant, #1 Best Selling Author, and International Keynote Speaker. For further advice, insight and inspiration on how to unlock your inner leader, follow Robert on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
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, Business Culture
, Business Strategy
, Customer Satisfaction
, Customer Service
, It's Already Inside
, Robert Murray
, Robert S. Murray