Thanks for starting this thread. Here is how I handle these situations.
I have always found that the best policy in dealing with an unsatisfied or disgruntled client is to talk to them in person or on the phone.
In most cases, it is usually something simple that wounds the client's sensibilities or their wallet. Left unattended, this small wound can to turn into a full grown contagion - that can spread in the form of bad publicity or worse. The imagination coupled with anger can really turn things ugly quick.
It takes something like five times the effort to find a new customer as it is to keep and nurture an existing customer. (Don't quote me on the number of times...but you get the idea!)
So here are some simple steps to defuse the situation:
1) Contact your customer/client as soon as possible.
2) Be a good listener: don't interrupt, don't defend, don't let it get personal.
3) As they are speaking about the problem(s), put yourself in their place to see how you would like to be treated.
4) After they are done speaking, then, in a calm manner, see if you can defuse the situation with facts or an apology, or an offer of a discount.
5) If the customer is wrong - then refer to rule number 1 - the customer is always right!
6) If the customer tells you they are going elsewhere, then wish them luck and ask if there is anything you can do to aid in the transition.
7) No matter what happens, do not hang up on them or, worse, say something that you will later regret.
8) Last but not least, do not threaten to "Lawyer Up" even if they said they would.
It's very difficult to eat crow in these cases but, believe me, in the long-run it pays off.
Stephen R. Hartfield, CPA
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience with us. Your simple steps to diffuse the situation are very well thought out. Having been in a customer service position for years, I totally agree with you on them. Most times, the customer just wants to vent their frustration and be acknowledged that their frustration is justified. They want you to know what's wrong and will feel better once you've listened and expressed that you understand why they feel the way they do about whatever the incidence is.
It is very hard to eat crow, I agree, but as you stated, sometimes it is necessary and it just may keep the customer happy & yours.
In the latest SBOC article entitled Defusing the Situation: Cooling down an angry customer, the customer writes a long, ranting epistle to a small business owner with their issues. Although the customer had not clearly read the original disclaimer, the business owner wants to keep this client. Cookies were sent along with an apology and the relationship was made firm.
So often our reaction to an angry customer is to respond in veiled resistance - and sometimes not so veiled. Read this informative article to see if you can use any of the suggestions laid out in the H-E-L-P method.
How do you handle angry customers? Want to share some examples? We'll be watching to read.