In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Great advice, but do you ever let unhappy customer’s words ever get you down?
As service providers, we need to learn to handle customer complaints without feeling personally attacked and getting angry or defensive. It doesn’t help, it just hurts both you, the service provider, and the customer. Yes, mistakes will happen. When we are dealing with human beings and technology – things are bound to go wrong. If you, the service provider, has not purposefully made the mistake happen, then it is not your fault. I repeat, it is not personally your fault. It is your responsibility however to address and fix the problem, as you are representing the company you work for. It is your responsibility to fix that problem and turn the customer into a raving fan.
In truth, the customer isn’t always right, and, sometimes, it is tempting to engage in heated arguments, especially when it comes to defending your business, employees and even yourself. But since customer retention is the end goal, listening intently and sticking with a calm, collected approach will help troubleshoot even the toughest complaint.
The key to dealing with upset customers words intelligently and creatively is to not take it personally. Both yourself and the customer are looking for a positive outcome. We need to take the emotion out of the equation. We need to learn how to ignore personal attacks, sarcasm, exaggeration & foul language. This is especially hard because our natural instinct is to defend and counterattack. Here are a few tips selected from our Service Edge training program:
Don’t take it personally:
Understand that most angry customers are not angry with you personally, but rather the situation in which they currently find themselves.
Let them “vent”
Sometimes people just need to be heard. You can always do that. Don’t interrupt, pay attention, clarify that you understand, take notes. Let the customer get it all out before you propose a solution.
Focus on understanding the customer and the situation, and not reacting to their tone of voice, words or body language.
Apologize and empathize
Empathy is essential to communicate in challenging situations. Use phrases like: “I understand”, “I too have felt that way”, “I am sorry”, “I can see why you are upset” so that the customer feels that they are being heard and that we respect them. Always apologize. Apologizing does not mean that you are taking responsibility for the action, simply that you are sorry that this situation occurred.
Of course, if you can do exactly what the customer wants you to, Fantastic! If you can’t, have another remedy ready that will be a good fit for the customer and the problem.
The biggest benefits of not taking things personally and reacting as such are self-awareness and understanding. If you can learn to choose a better response you will become unshakable, no matter what the angry customer says. In a front-line service job, this is an important trait to have. To be able to be there for your customers, and be able to go home at the end of the day with a positive attitude and a love for your job, even after a bad day.