The customer service industry revolves around addressing customer questions and concerns. Inevitably, this means you will encounter unhappy customers from time to time. While not all unhappy customers are difficult, it’s easy for situations to escalate if not handled properly. Knowing how to successfully navigate delicate interactions such as these is vital to the reputation of your company.
Fortunately, many techniques were created for this purpose. With the right approach, it’s possible to diffuse negative situations and even retain customer business. The following is a list of the most effective tips for interacting with unhappy customers.
1. Listen first, respond later. It’s often instinctive to respond right away when an issue is brought to your attention. However, this is not always the best approach when interacting with an angry customer. The most important part of customer service is to make sure the customer feels heard, and to address any concerns to the best of your ability. In many cases, the best approach is to allow angry customers to vent a little before you respond. This way, you can avoid making the situation worse. Eventually, they will begin to run out of steam and allow you to provide assistance.
2. Take a step back. In a customer service position, you must remind yourself not to take a customer’s words to heart, especially while they air out their grievances. After all, you are serving as a representative of your company, so much of their frustration will seem directed towards you. However, getting defensive in the moment can actually worsen the situation. The customer may feel like you are brushing off their concerns or shifting the blame. That’s why it’s important not to take customer complaints personally. Remind yourself that it’s not you the customer is angry with, but that you are capable of offering a solution.
3. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Take a moment to imagine yourself as the customer. If you were unhappy with services or products you received, you would likely seek out customer service as well. Though it can be difficult to remember this while on the other side of the situation, it’s an important technique in the customer service industry. When you pause to consider the customer’s perspective, it can help you understand where they’re coming from and how to offer assistance. Moreover, this approach serves as a reminder that customer satisfaction is the end goal.
4. Remember to be friendly. When it comes to interactions with unhappy customers, a friendly demeanor can go a long way. On one hand, maintaining a calm expression reminds you not to get defensive during the interaction. In the event that the customer is agitated and angry, this tip also helps to prevent hostilities from escalating further. A relaxed and friendly demeanor helps to build trust and lets the customer know that you are on his or her side. Wearing a smile can even help during phone calls with customers, as it instinctively conveys a pleasant tone of voice.
5. Speak softly and calmly. Just like your physical expression, tone of voice is an important tool when speaking to angry customers. If a customer is using a loud and aggressive voice, it can be difficult not to have a similar response. However, attempting to speak over the customer is an easy way to escalate the situation and cause further issues. When you are ready to respond to the customer, try to approach the situation as calmly as possible. Speaking softly can help soothe and guide the customer to a calmer demeanor.
6. Get on a first name basis. One of the easiest ways to ease the tension of a situation is to get to know the customer a little. Instinctively, many customer service representatives gravitate towards calling customers “sir,” or “ma’am.” While this is respectful, it is also very formal and creates an emotional distance between you and the customer. An action as simple as using the customer’s name while you try to address the problem can create a more friendly atmosphere. When customers feel like you are on their side, it becomes easier to resolve issues.
7. Apologize. Most of all, customers want their concerns to be taken seriously. In some cases, apologizing for the situation is the best way to relate to a customer and begin to address concerns. Even if it was not directly related to your own actions, an apology conveys the idea that someone is taking responsibility for the issue. You can also take this a step further, and offer to resolve the situation personally. By owning the problem, you can provide reassurance that the issue will be properly addressed.
8. Make sure you understand the problem. You cannot begin to address a customer’s concerns without understanding the situation to begin with. Unfortunately, it’s easy to miscommunicate when a customer is frustrated. With this in mind, you may need to take extra steps in order to determine how to help. After listening to the customer’s initial complaint, ask questions as needed for further clarification. Once the issue is solved, make sure the customer is satisfied with the results to ensure that you have fully addressed all concerns.
9. Seek assistance from a supervisor. If all else fails, bring the situation to your supervisor’s attention. Many times, this action alone is enough to put the customer’s mind at ease. The most important thing is for the customer to feel like their issues or concerns are being taken seriously. Getting a supervisor involved tells the customer that the issue is important enough to require upper management’s attention. Plus, your supervisor likely has additional experience with unhappy customers, and can help you navigate the situation.
10. Follow up. Once the situation is handled, take the time to reach out to a customer that you have helped. This is an important step to take in the aftermath, especially if you directed the customer to a supervisor for assistance. When you make sure the problem was adequately addressed, you can begin to mend the relationship between the customer and the company you work for. Reaching out shows a genuine care and acknowledgement for the customer, which increases the likelihood that you will retain his or her business in the future.