For whatever reason, we’ve all experienced an unhappy customer. While this can be a frustrating experience, I’m here to tell you it’s not only possible to defuse angry customers, but you can turn them into raving fans of your small business.
Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Put your ego aside. When faced with conflict, it’s human nature to become defensive or angry in response. You need to put these urges aside and focus on the customer’s feelings, not your own.
2. Let the customer vent. Most angry people just want to be heard. Like a boiling kettle, your customer needs to let off steam—if you get in the way, you’ll get burned.
3. Listen actively. While the customer vents, pay attention. Don’t think about what you’re going to say in response, interrupt or offer solutions (yet). Try to understand why the customer is so upset and what feelings are behind the anger.
4. Clarify the reason the customer is angry. Paraphrase what he or she said and ask if you’re understanding correctly. Repeat, if necessary, until you get it right.
5. Apologize for the problem. Don’t just say “I’m sorry”—be empathetic. “I’m so sorry the gift you ordered for your daughter didn’t arrive on time. That must have disappointed you and the birthday girl.”
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6. Take ownership of the problem. Tell the customer you will personally make sure the issue is resolved. Coming from the business owner, this means a lot and often diffuses the situation.
7. Suggest a solution and get the customer’s buy-in. To give the customer some control of the situation, present a solution and ask if that would work for her. Or offer two options and ask the customer which she would prefer.
8. Solve the problem as quickly as possible. Often, you can do this on the spot; other times, it may take longer. For problems that require more time, keep the customer updated about progress so they don’t feel forgotten.
9. Go above and beyond solving the problem. Customers will be satisfied if you fix the problem, but they won’t be thrilled enough to become raving fans. To get them there consider offering a discount, additional service, free gift or other item of value at the same time you resolve the issue. Better yet, offer something the customer can share with friends. “I’m so sorry you weren’t happy with your steak. We’ll bring you another one on the house. Also, please accept this gift certificate for two free entrees. We hope you’ll come back to visit us again.”
10. Follow up a week after resolving the problem. “Hi, Mr. Rodriguez. I’m calling to make sure the replacement part we installed last week is working properly for you.” This shows the customer that their problem isn’t “out of sight, out of mind” and that you care about them in the long term.
Diffusing an angry online confrontation is more challenging, since you can’t “read” a person’s body language or tone of voice. Ask the customer to “go offline” and talk by phone; then follow the steps above.
Afterwards, go online to update others on how the issue was resolved. If the customer wrote a negative review, post a response explaining what you did, or ask the customer if he’d like to do so. After you’ve gone above and beyond to make them happy, most customers will revise the review on their own.
If the issue is an ongoing problem rather than a one-off, be sure to thank the customer for bringing it to your attention, and tell them what action you’re taking going forward. “Thank you for letting us know our technician didn’t get your approval before performing the work. We’ve talked to all our technicians and changed our system so this won’t happen again.”
Listening to customers and treating them with respect helps turn ranters into raving fans.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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