How can I turn an angry customer into a loyal customer?
I do not deal well with confrontation. My first instinct when I get a customer complaint is to ignore it and let them go. (Terrible approach, I know!) This is something I need to work on, and the best way for me to do this is to face our angriest customers. We just launched and have had our ups and downs. Instead of letting those customers go, I want to turn their experience around. What's the best way to approach them and change their mind? Thank you!
Becca the good thing is that you know this is an issue for you. I do agree that for you, facing your angriest customers (and thus your fear) is a good way to go. However I suggest you do not do this with the goal of changing their minds. Rather I suggest you approach them in hopes of understanding their frustration, anger, etc. By approaching them with genuine concern you not only stand a chance of remedying the situation but also of recognizing first hand that conflict is also an opportunity. Go for it!
We do a lot of work with handling conflict effectively. Conflict is inherently about situations where you and another person are not on the same page. What makes it tricky for us as people is usually the emotions that go along with it. It is not unusual to avoid confrontation (we all fall into one of 5 categories: avoid, accommodate, compete, compromise or collaborate - for more information you can check out the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Model). The trick is to know where you start naturally (it sounds like you are an avoider) and start working towards being able to get to 'collaborate' with anyone in any situation.
To get to the point where conflict is easier for you (it may never be comfortable but we can make it easier to handle) there are two things to work on:
1. The skills of constructive dialogue, how to diffuse anger and raise issues in a way that doesn't negatively impact someone or escalate an already tense situation.
2. Your mental view of conflict and anger, which frankly, can be harder to tackle. Those of us that avoid or accommodate in conflict situations tend to imagine scenarios and have 'conversations with ourselves' like "this is going to be awful" or something like that. To be effective you need to work past whatever mental barrier you have up to the conversation in the first place.
In your case, it sounds like you have a good starting point - you recognize the very good reasons for handling any conflict with customers, which will give you a reason to stick with it. I would start paying attention to the things you say to yourself when confronted by an angry customer so you can learn to shut those comments off.
Now we have to make handling irate or unhappy people less difficult for you so that the benefits of having the conversation outweigh the discomfort you feel having them.
Here are my top 5 tips:
1. Find a positive saying that works. When you get a complaint, you need to stop whatever is going on in your head in the first place. Picking a positive focal point can help e.g. "I am going to make this person a champion" or simply "I can do this". It will be better if the saying directly speaks to whatever drives your reason to avoid conflict. I'd need to understand more about you to help with that, but hopefully, that's clear. It may sound 'fluffy' or 'mumbo jumbo' but I promise you when you find the right phrase - it works.
2. Identify emotion as a sign of importance, not about you. All emotions are good or bad, are signs that something is really important to someone. Think of them as indicators of how much this person really wants to share and wants help. The angrier I am, the more I need someone to help me resolve my problem. It's not anger AT YOU. Even if it might feel that way. You have the power to make someone's day when they are that irate...
3. Label, empathize and offer to help. Labelling emotions helps us and more importantly others. Start to manage their emotions. So saying "I can see how frustrated you are" flags to that person that they are coming across as frustrated, and they (normally) start to come down a few notches. If you can add "I am sorry that you are so frustrated, let's see how I can help" can take it down a notch further.
4. Listen and explore. In my opinion, it is rare that you can't do ANYTHING to help someone. The important part is to listen enough and explore enough to find out HOW you can help. Plus, the act of listening usually allows the person to vent, and talk through the emotion until they can get to a better place. Be aware though, it takes some people longer to vent than others! Focus on just understanding what they are trying to tell you. What is the issue? Why do they feel as strongly? You can empathize without affirming - "That does sound challenging" or "I can understand how you must have been upset by that". None of those comments put the issue anywhere, they are just part of listening. Playback the issues as you understand them so that they feel heard.
5. Do what you can to help. Sometimes there isn't much you can do, but be clear about what you can. If you can't do more, explain why. Again, without specific scenarios here its hard to share suggestions, but for my business, if something we have done has caused frustration, I want to do something to set that right, even if I can't change the original issue. Don't get defensive about why something happened, that doesn't really matter. Your focus is on how can I help this person walk away feeling better in a way that doesn't compromise my needs either.
Ok, so that's really long! Lol but it's hard to capture the training we do in a short reply! If you want to give me call, please do. In any case, good luck and I applaud you tackling something difficult for you!
When you are not comfortable when dealing with irate customers and try to avoid it then it is natural to dislike problems. When you learn to turn those unhappy customers into one of your biggest fans you might find you actually enjoy it. Some of our biggest advocates are guys who at one time were calling us everything under the sun.
When we get an unhappy customer we listen to them, empathize with them, admit our mistake and give them a sincere apology. We tell them how much the feedback helps us to improve and that even though we wish they didn't have a problem we are glad they took the time to tell us about it. We then do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Sometimes it is pretty expensive but it is far less expensive than having an unhappy customer or a customer suing you.
I did a trade show a couple of weeks ago and as I was talking to a potential customer another guy came up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder and told my prospect that if he is thinking about the kind of product we have he should buy it from us. He then added he had a problem when he bought from us and we bent over backwards to take care of it and that our customer service is fantastic. He then added once we fixed the problem our equipment worked great. Someone who has had a problem that was handled well will be your biggest fan,
There must be something that trigger the angry customers. I would not what to change the angry customers but I would rather want to know what is the next best step to be taken to handle the angry scene. It is when the atmosphere becomes cooler, than it we can investigate where goes wrong and what to be improved as customers may not always wrong, therefore instead of changing their mind, we find ways to improve.
Easy to say than done, but keep a cool mind is a great start!
If customers got angry for nothing and we can expect their will keep doing the same, than we may consider not to serve them as the costs of serving them will be much higher.
If everything turns out to be misunderstanding, there is a chance to bring customers closer to us as resolving a misunderstanding normally will improve a relationship.
Becca, the angriest customers are usually more hurt than angry, so it helps to approach them as if they are an animal or child in severe distress.
So what you do is first make contact with them.
For the first 2 - 3 minutes, all YOU need to do is listen and ask questions -- in fact, during the first few sentences of the conversation, doing anything other than listening and asking questions designed to elicit more of THEIR story will only aggravate the conflict.
The purpose of this is not just to find out what exactly happened, but to ensure that the angry customer feels that their complaint has been heard. As soon as they feel that someone is actively listening to them and is "on their side", the anger subsides a good deal, and they are able to move on toward working out a mutually beneficial solution.
So, the most important thing you can do is to hear and acknowledge their anger.
You don't have to solve the problem for them instantly and on the spot - although about 80% of the time, you can and do apply an easy fix that sees everyone going away happy.
For that next 18%, it is harder work - you actually have to go investigate whatever process boondoggle has gotten them so upset and come up with two things: a fix for the situation so that it doesn't occur again, and a resolution that the customer can take away happily.
For one or two percent of the total complaints that you will ever get, there may not be a workable resolution that you can apply for that customer: in those cases, you are going to have an unhappy former customer out there, and you need to find a way using your policies and your upfront customer info to gently educate your buyers. These ones are the hardest work -- they generally require a lot more effort and complex development than the other 98 or 99%.
Thinking of angry customers in this way and approaching them in this way will ease the path for you, and ultimately, for your products and services. Your "job" isn't to solve everyone's problems as soon as or before they tell you what their problem is. YOUR job is to hear their problem and give it fair consideration -- after you've done that, you can move on to how and if you can propose a workable resolution.
Dealing with angry or disappointed customers is no fun. Many business owners either take your approach or try to convince the customer that they are really right and the customer is confused. Another bad approach!
Here's the best approach I've seen. Make a sincere apology first. Own your mistake. Then, if you are not certain of what happened, ask them to tell you. Or, if you know what happened, ask them what they would like to see as a remedy. In both cases, yuou need to listen without interupting them. Remember, they will be charged with emotion so let the emotion go by and concentrate on what they are saying.
Finally, fix the problem or do whatever is possible to get close to their request. Do this becasue its the right thing to do, not becasue you think they will continue to do business with you. Sometimes, they won't. Usually, it will take some time for their emotions to cool off. After the solution is provided, contact them in 3-5 days to find out how things went. Thank them for originally deciding to do business with you and restate your apology briefly. Don't run on about it. Tell them you would be happy to have them as a continued customer but understand that it's they decision.
In 2-3 weeks, send them a certificate for something in your store. Depending on your business, this may or may not be feasible.
Rebounding from customer disappointment is not easy. It takes 3 times as much effort to fix the problem as it does to gain them as a customer in the first place. Learn from the situation and commit yourself to fixing the problem. You could even send them a note 30 days later and thank them for bringing the problem to your attention.
There's winning and then there's winning. I've had people walk away unhappy, worked to fix it and had them still be unhappy. However, years later, they remember the effort to make it right more clearly than they remember the problem.
For example: I had a client who agreed to my rates because he was up against the wall. The second I finished, the pressure was off and he thought he could re-negotiate. I made him a deal. He could pay me the lesser rate, and not call me again, or he could pay the full amount and have a reliable person for the next disaster. He was surprised that I didn't fight. He paid me the lesser amount and we shook hands. He didn't call me again for years. When he finally did, he paid my full rate and told me that he wasn't going to make the same mistake again.
Instead of fighting for what I was due, or giving up, I put the choices on the table. I let him decide. That's why he eventually came back. I've made a lot of money with him since then. We have lunch occasionally. I've spent time talking to his friends.
Firstly, congratulations on facing what many people want to move away from. And there is a lot of evidence that a customer with a problem will tell a lot of other potential customers, BUT a customer with a problem that is dealt with well will tell many more about how good you are, and that creates loyalty.
So here's a few steps:
1. Let go of blame (on yourself or your customer); what (if anything) went wrong is for you and your team to review, not for discussion with the customer
2. Perception is everything; whether or not you think they got bad service, THEY think they did, so the truth in their world is that there is a problem; accept their view of the world (however unrealistic) and start from there
3. Take time to listen to their complaint (most customers will tell you this goes a long way to building a trusting relationship); do not defend; we call this separating person and problem, just get the facts and how they feel about it.
4. Establish a resolution; sometimes it's right to ask the customer (often just listening and accepting will be enough) what would put it right for them, sometimes we need to make a small gesture, other times the action is obvious, ie replacing an item post free.
5. do whatever it takes (within reason) to redress the complaint. An apology (even if don't think they deserve one) is sometimes enough; there's no room for pride in customer relationships
6.Follow up to ensure satisfaction
7. go back and review the complaints with your team, and think of them as opportunities to improve your systems, service etc. Think of complaints as a form of feedback, a market survey that was free!
Sometimes explaining that eg you're just starting and therefore there's a learning curve, will help with some customers, but mostly people aren't interested in your problems, only their own, so only mention this if you feel it will help. Even if you do, still apologise and seek to redress the situation.
If you need to call and open a conversation with an angry customer, start by acknowledging their position ("I know you weren't happy with...and we'd like to put it right...")
If you pick up a call from an angry customer, stay calm, and start with "Yes, I can understand that that is...", then seek resolution.
Most important in this is your frame of mind - it's not a personal attack, it's someone's views of their experience in their world, and you can decide what you do with it.
Would love to hear how you get on
The good news is that you have angry customers. Really. I'll prove it in a moment, but you need to start with that attitude. It's good news that you have angry customers. Say that again, out loud.
1) You have customers. Customers mean revenues. Revenue means you're in business. Celebrate!
2) You have customers who value what you (could) produce. Value means they'll pay you. Payment means revenue. Rinse. Repeat.
3) You have customers who are willing to give you a chance to make things right - you would not know they were angry otherwise. (You'd be much worse off if they simply walked away from you and did not complain.) This is an ***opportunity*** not a problem. Opportunity is why this is good news. Say it again, it's good to have angry customers.
What is it an opportunity for?
"It's an opportunity for me to spend my time listening to them complain, and then using my resources to fix things." WRONG ANSWER
It's an opportunity to do a lot of thing:
A) It's an opportunity to understand your customer better. What value was expected? How did what was delivered fall short? How did that affect their lives and business? As Ed Drozda said, approach them with genuine concern. This is not about your pain in serving them...it's about their pain caused by you.
B) It's an opportunity to improve your business. Did you promise the wrong thing, over-promise on the right thing, under deliver? You will never, ever find this out from happy customers and therefore your business will not improve. Angry customers tell you how to fix things. At the risk of repeating myself, it's good to have them!
C) It's an opportunity to make things right...not just to show concern (in A), but to *demonstrate* concern for their lives and their business. You asked how to create a loyal customer? Demonstrate you are concerned about them at least as much as you are about yourself. Angry customers are *handing* you the chance to do so...the chance to earn their loyalty. You should be grateful, not fearful.
This is what it means to be customer focused. Customers know when you are, even when they're angry, and that makes them loyal.
Hi Becca, these situations are always awkward, but the approach that I use may be of help to you as well.
These situations can be highly charged emotionally from the customer side. As such, they must "ventilate" before you can "communicate" to resolve the matter. They have to "get it off their chest" before you can get them to listen and to consider your resolution to the issue at hand.
Do not take it personally...if you do, you will come across as defensive, which will aggravate the situation. The customer rarely is upset with you personally...they are upset with the situation, real or perceived, what ever it may be.
Stop what you are doing, put down anything that you have in your hands and give your customer your undivided attention. Look the customer in the eye. Acknowledge their dissatisfaction..."I am sorry, what can I do to resolve this matter for you?" That statement alone will usually disarm a the customer as they expect a defensive posture in most cases.
At some point the customer will pause their venting for a reaction from you. You then say..." I am sorry that this happened, Is there anything else I should know about this matter?" This encourages the customer to further "ventilate" while you patiently listen to them. Once they have finished "ventilating", you ask..."What is it that you would like me to do to resolve this matter to your satisfaction?"
Now you are perceived as the advocate for the customer, not their adversary.
Before the customer leaves, present them with a coupon for a bonus of some sort..."Because we value you as a customer, please accept this coupon for a X% discount on you next purchase" - or something simlar.
Problem-solving with the customer can win you a customer for life...and positive referrals.
I agree that it is more important to determine where the frustration is coming from with a customer problem. Often times if you are not dealing -- but customer service is dealing with an irate customer, by the time they reach you -- yes, they are irate. In any event the more you ignore a problem with a customer the worse it will get. You knew that already. I commend you for recognizing confrontation is not your strong point. However, admitting you have a problem is the first step. There are very few people, myself included, who shy away from confrontation.
The best way to deal with a customer with a problem is as soon as possible, be sure to hear them out thoroughly and determine the best steps to take to make that customer a happy customer. This will not work with ALL client problems, but I guarantee when customer issues are met head-on and quickly, discussed and corrected, you have a happy customer and you learn how to deal with the issue if arises again. It is a learning experience.
Remember to keep a record of all customer complaints/problems as it may be something within your company and your customer(s) are raising a red flag.
Good luck and God Bless!
April D Halliburton
I think the company you work for is blessed to have you on board, because although you don't enjoy confrontation, you still want to improve your customer's experiences. The thing is, no one enjoys confrontation. But usually, when a customer gets angry, it's not directed at you, but...you are the only person they can be angry with because you represent your company. Most of the time, customers get angry because of other stuff behind the scenes, like faulty processes. That is not your problem, but because you are there, in front of them, you get the brunt of it.
What is wonderfully fulfilling is turning an angry customer into a happy, delighted one.
All you need to do is put yourself in their shoes. What they really want is to know they are being heard and that the company is sorry. So here's how to handle it:
Look into their eyes. With great sincerity, acknowledge their feelings. E.g. "I can understand how angry that must make you".
Then apologize on behalf of the company.
Then do something to make amends. It is as this point that you have the opportunity to make a angry customer a delighted one. However, sometimes this part requires a customer-centric company because it may entail a cost. You need to either go out of your way to do something for the customer, and let them know, or you need to give them something of value to them.
Here's a scenario: you're at a restaurant. When you begin eating, you find a hair in your food. You call the waiter. If he is good, and if the company allows it, he will have the authority to make amends. How would you feel if he flippantly said, "oh sorry, I can bring you another one"? Or how would you feel if he looked you in the eye, and said, "I am so sorry about this. I will take your plate away immediately. Can I bring you another meal, and for the trouble, can we give you a free cup of coffee for you and your guest at the end of your meal? Or would you like a glass of wine on the house?"
In the one scenario, you would get angry. In the other, you would have felt heard, you would have a heartfelt apology, and you would be delighted that you get a free drink. And you would walk out of there happy and content.
great insights here. I liked the structured approach by Anne. she put step-by-step method. Allow me to put my top tips:
1. the great news is you know your limitations. You are already changing your mind set about angry customers and customer complains. These are extremely beneficial feedback to you on areas need improvement. So after resolving the problem, make sure you review your business practices so t dosn't happen aain with customers.
2. Let the angry customer vent like a boiling pot. Nothing will appen before that. During the venting phase listen to understand and fre your mind from preparing any answer. Just put all your energy to listen. May be taking notes as well.
3. See what the customer want done, and what you can do. reach a middle ground or best possible solution. Then ask the customer upfront if this mishappening will prevent him / her from repeating business with you.
4. After solving the problem, follow up to make sure things are fixed and in place. Foloww up makes big difference. It shows you are. Keep connected with and ngage your customers to prevent them from going to competition.
Wish you all success.
Becca, try not to look at it as confrontation, rather a challenge that you can solve.
Be sure to focus on the challenge at hand and not on the person or their behavior as that is not the cause of the challenge.
Listen - quietly to what the person has to say and see the challenge through their eyes.
Empathize - recognize their feelings and let them know you understand how they feel.
Identify - the specific challenge with the person.
Ask - what would need to be done to make them happy.
Solve - the challenge by doing what needs to be done.
Apologize - and thank them for their understanding and wish them well.
This is a simple six step process and there are a variety of steps that will work. I would like to suggest you consider a step by step process and use it as a guide to follow when you have to solve challenges for your customers.
I think it would be a good idea to follow up a day or two later to make sure that everything is going well, this shows you care.
The last step is to see what you can do to make sure the same challenge does not come up again.
Remember your focus is to solve the challenge for them rather than focus on changing their mind.
Oh, and by the way, there are some customers you just cannot please and they are going to try to make your day miserable anyway. If you follow your steps and do what you can then so be it, you know you did your best. Sometimes it is good to lose a troublesome customer.
Address the ISSUE, not the anger. Let me give you a perfect example. Years ago a client providing temporary help got call from an angry ex-client who was screaming on the phone "I got this bill from you and I haven't done business with you in years..." and he kept screaming. Now what would you do? Ignore it? Panic and say you're sorry and that it will be fixed immediately?
Not my client. He responded "Oh, how come?"
It stopped the client dead in his tracks. "What do you mean how come?"
My client then asked why he hadn't done business with them in years. After a brief conversation he resolved the bill (a simple credit), resolved why he hadn't done business and got the client back. As my client said, resolving the bill is easy - somebody in accounting goofed. Getting the client back is more important.
So, LISTEN carefully. What is the real issue and how can you fix it. And always respond. I also learned to give out my home phone number as a comfort. In the decades that I have done that I have never had a client call at home!
What is you are selling? COMFORT. Here's an article I wrote for Gifts & Dec Magazine that has some tips: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/customer-service-real-solution-selling-george-matyjewicz-phd?trk=mp-reader-card
Good choice in making the decision to face them head on! First, find out why they are angry - just simply ask and allow them to express themselves. Apologize for whatever the situation or issue which is creating their unhappiness. Offer a solution to the customer if one is readily available. If not - then advise the customer that you would like - give a time frame - (10 minutes, 30 minutes or whatever you feel is necessary) to come up with a solution. Keep your word on the time frame. Customers can be very understanding when their issue is heard and some type of solution offered. Ask if the solution offered meets their resolution needs. Call a day later (if possible) to get the customer's "temperature" in regards to how they feel about your company. May I also suggest that you track the reasons that customers are angry. This will help in determining if there is a pattern to the reasons customers are angry. Hope this helps!
Sometimes there really isn't anything you can do about an angry customer except to let them vent at you. I took both sales and customer service calls at a call center for many years. The easiest ones just needed somebody to yell at, they were frustrated nobody seemed to listen. Once they were done venting, I might suggest ways to relieve their frustration. The most angry ones that seemed to have a legal case, I suggested contacting their lawyers and gave them a mailing address in which to send legal communications to. The vast majority of people were happy to have some kind of direction to go. We all want a product or service that works for us. Put yourself in their shoes – what would satisfy you?
The best way is to absolutely forget your ego and fear of confrontation and do everything in your powers to solve their problem. It's never too late to solve part of it at least, somehow, or reimburse the client with a discount or any addition or anything.
After that, wait for an appropriate period of time and follow up with them saying you just wanted to make sure it was all good at the end and that you'd be happy to offer them some kind of preferential conditions on your services in the future.
It doesn't work all the time, but it has worked around 80% of the time with me in turning unhappy clients in loyal clients, including with big corporations.
If you want more awesome business advice or have any questions, I'd be happy to help you with a free Business Breakthrough call, where you'll gain clarity o how to run your perfect business.
If you're interested, just message me here.
Becca, I believe that the key is to listen, listen and listen again. You want to listen not only with your mind on your business, but listen as if you are in the customer's shoes. Try and understand what the real issue is with that customer. From there work on a way to settle the problem in a way that you are able to compromise with and then go a step beyond. I am not talking about giving a discount on a future purchase, but give something of value to ensure that your customer will be pleased. People tend to think of themselves, (me, my, I) and this is a time you cannot do that for yourself or your business, but instead appeal to what you can give your customer.
Two parts here.
First off, I don't think you're necessarily wrong to let some of these go. It's impossible to satisfy everyone and if you're making a product that requires any standardization at all, then inherently you're going to get some frustrated people who want the product just one level more customized. Also, you're probably interacting on the internet. You're going to get some unsolvable people.
Once you filter out some trolls, an angry customer can be a really valuable asset. You have someone who deeply wants to share with you why your product doesn't work. Especially when you're getting started, anger is definitely preferable to silence. That means someone saw your product, realized their need was going to be met, but then something happened along the way that soured the customer relationship. They may be angry, but they really just want to make things work.
The approach I would recommend would be first to resolve the issue. They came to you with a need and until you take the thorn out of the lion's paw, they're not going to be interested in working with you. Trying to go any other path without solving the problem will inevitably increase frustrations.
Once you've gotten there though, the best way to approach could be from a learning mindset. They have some insights that they want to pass on and you as a company need to hear them to make a better product. That's a great match! (Although it might not feel great). If you can get them on board with helping, teaching you how to fix the product for them and for others, this could have the potential to convert them into a satisfied customer.
I hope this helps! Best of luck with the customers and I hope they come around.