“Ummm …. Hey, this lady on the phone wants to talk to a manager and she doesn’t sound happy!”
This simple phrase can send chills up the spine of any leader. You have an upset customer and you are about to catch an ear full for something you or someone of your team messed up.
No matter how skilled your people are and how well you equip them to handle the situation, sometimes being the boss has a price to pay and that price is dealing with irate customers. Even if your organization is in the top 1% of elite companies, you will still have to field these calls at times.
Don’t chicken out.
If you think the client is mad now, just avoid them and let them stew on that anger and see what you get. It’s nothing pretty I assure you (Think about the last time you were on the phone with the cable company). Another reason to not chicken out is that your team members are looking up to you to set a good example for them.
Note: If you aren’t available at the time of the call have your people set up a specific time for you to call them back and stick to it.
What does the angry customer really want?
The first and foremost thing they want is to be heard. They are disgruntled for a reason, justified or not. It’s your job to listen to that reason (sometimes with earplugs). Don’t argue with them. Don’t defend yourself, your people, or your company, not yet anyway. The first thing you must do to defuse the situation is to listen.
Acknowledge their frustration.
Get on their side by telling them that you understand how they feel. Tell them that their frustration is valid and you can even compliment them on the restraint that they are showing considering the situation (And don’t roll your eyes. Be sincere). Remember to smile and remain pleasant.
Be prepared for them to share a personal hardship.
At this point during the call they may share something outside of this situation that is making it especially stressful. I’ve personally had people share family losses, financial hardships, marriage problems, troubled children, and whole plethora of things way too crazy to make up. Just know that they are going through a tough time.
Share your disappointment.
Let them know that you are disappointed in how the situation was handled. If your people did something wrong, own up to it. If you feel they didn’t, own up to being disappointed with the lack of communication. Tell them how you wished it would have been handled because that’s how you’ve trained them and that’s what’s important to you.
When customers (and team members) know you care they will be more forgiving when a mistake is made. If they think you don’t care they will insist you be tarred and feathered in town square in front of everyone you know. In the past, an upset customer would tell on average of around 7-11 other people. Today, they have immediate access to thousands of people. Even my mother has over 500 friends on social media.
Suggest your action steps.
Give them the steps you plan to take to resolve the situation to their satisfaction. Sometimes it’s as simple as to assure it doesn’t happen again. Other times you may need to reimburse them financially. Then ask them if that will resolve the matter. Whatever the situation calls for, do the right thing.
If they make a request, make sure it’s reasonable. Remained disciplined and protect the longevity of your organization by being fair to all parties involved.
The Jerk Whisperer – How to Keep Adults Acting Like Adults