Dealing with Irate Clients
An unhappy customer is an unpleasant part of many jobs. It is something we face daily, particularly those in business and more so in sales. Dealing with customer dissatisfaction isn’t fun but it comes with the territory. The question many people have is, 'how do I deal with an angry client?' We discuss some simple strategies in this article.
As much as we all live for the smiles and praise of the clients who got exactly what they asked for and more, we have to face the fact that sometimes we don’t get it right. The good news is that there are ways to recover from such setbacks and they are easy enough to incorporate into the way you run your businesses.
The reason a customer becomes angry may or may not be legitimate, but your mandate is to defuse the situation and calm the client down. You must endeavour to put them at ease, even if you realise that you are not the reason they are upset in the first place. What is important to you is trying your best to make their experience with you and on your premises a pleasant one. It is very easy for the mind to associate a bad memory or sensation with a specific place, and you don’t want your corporate address to be the source of this distress!
Read the situation
Take a look at the body language of the person who is upset. It isn’t hard to tell if someone is not happy. Indicators are in the face, the set of their shoulders and even in the way they walk. Sometimes the choice of words can also give a big hint as to how your customer is feeling and what they might already think of you or your business.
It’s important to actually acknowledge or pay attention to someone who walks through your doors. I, for one, am the type of person who can get a little irritated if I walk up to the receptionist’s station and the people behind the desk are doing everything but acknowledging a potential customer. A person call tell if you aren’t paying attention to them and when you’re not paying attention, you can easily miss the indicators that will warn you whether an individual is unhappy (with you, the company or otherwise). If they’re already in a bad mood, you don’t want to make it worse, do you?
Extend a hand
If you can, be ready to shake the client’s hand. It is a gesture to offer peace and usually they won’t be expecting it. Introduce yourself but make it clear that you don’t intend to remove yourself from the situation. Offer your help genuinely. A combination of professionalism and sincerity help put an irate individual at ease, helping bring the person’s thought process back and emotions to a reasonable level.
This gesture of extending your hand in greeting works when the situation has not yet blown out of proportion and you are trying to keep it from escalating. It may not work as well if you are the person that was talking to the customer when the situation took a turn for the worse.
This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but not everyone takes this step. Take the customer aside, let them sit down and allow them to vent. Then apologize on behalf of the company for the way they have been made to feel or for the inconvenience they have been put through. No matter whether they are right or wrong, the key is to be empathetic and acknowledge their negative experience. Make the client feel like you are on their side.
Moving out of earshot isn’t only to keep other clients from hearing what they are complaining about, it’s also a way of assuring them that you aren’t just doing it for show. What is important is to let the customer know you want to listen to them and understand their perspective.
Keep your cool
Never take the complaint personally. Advocate for the customer and you will prevent the escalation of a bad situation. As mentioned above, your goal is to represent the company as well as you can and to preserve or restore the reputation of the company. Remembering that the issue is not about you- no matter what the customer said at the height of their rage- and do your best to see to their needs. If need be, call over a superior or a colleague to mediate while you take a few breaths, to avoid the mistake of saying something you may regret in the future.
If the situation gets taken over by another staff member, you can still check on the client and whether they are satisfied at the end of the process. They will likely appreciate your concern and remember the gesture.
Understanding the customer’s plight doesn’t mean you have to agree with them entirely. They may be inclined to complain about someone you work with or the business as a whole, so be careful not to side with them in a way that makes your company look bad- even if you do agree inwardly. The main aim is to preserve the integrity of your organisation. You can’t do that while bad-mouthing your colleagues and adding your two cents about company policy. If there is something pertinent that the client’s complaint highlights, assure them you will make a note of it and raise it with the relevant individuals or teams so that they can improve delivery to other clients, in order to avoid a similar or worse situation.
Resolve the issue
Try to ensure the client that it will not happen again or that the situation will be resolved. Do not leave your client hanging because it wastes times and it may lead to more confrontations. Having taken the client aside communicates that you are actually making time to address their issue, so please don’t dismiss the issue without making certain that the issue has been put to rest. Don’t make any promises you don’t intend to keep but do go out of your way to help the client feel like a winner at the end of the entire experience. Even a gesture like walking the client to the door or elevator can make a world of difference.
Next time a situation arises in the workplace and you find yourself dealing with a customer conflict, try to work out what you can do to bring the issue to rest. Remember that it usually isn't about you personally and do your best to meet the client's needs without compromising your company's values and standards. Try the steps above for positive results and hopefully the customer will come back again.
Maybe you're not in business but you need help dealing with some turbulent relationships in your life. Contact Kintsu Consulting Group today and book a free consultation, and we can discuss communication strategies and conflict resolution.