Lessons Learned from Angry Customers
What sparks difficult customer support situations?
Every business has a common thread that links them together – the customer. Customers are the foundation of your company. Without them, you have no business. Furthermore, customers can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Just ask anyone who has had disgruntled customers bent on spreading the word about their perceived slights or mistreatments. In the day of social media, negative feedback is much more potent than in days past. One bad review of your company could potentially reach thousands of people. The same can be said though about a happy, satisfied customer too. Delight them and you create loyal enthusiasts who can garner support from their friends, family, and followers. This is precisely why customer service should be a primary focus for any business.
Tapping into the customer mentality is critical. You may have a phenomenal product or service, but if customer service is poor, then you may lose business. So, how can businesses create positive customer service experiences? One important step is to turn negative customer service encounters around and learn from them. Every customer-facing employee is going to experience negative encounters from time to time. Whether it be via email, over the phone, during a chat session, or in person, these encounters are likely to happen. However, there are strategies you can use to minimize the impact and learn from these experiences for next time. Customer difficulties take many forms such as:
- The angry customer
- The disinterested customer
- The confused customer
- The customer who is difficult to understand
Obviously, not all of these are equal in importance. Since an angry customer is more critical to your company brand, let’s take a closer look at problem resolution for that situation. To diffuse an angry customer scenario, it’s important to understand where the customers are coming from. What makes the customer angry? In most customer-service situations, it is usually one of the following:
Often, the main problem stems from a simple misunderstanding. Maybe the customer misunderstood how the product was supposed to work or misunderstood what the product was supposed to include. As a result, the product didn’t meet their expectations.
Some customers get upset because there’s a communication breakdown between them and the customer service representative. Maybe the representative interrupted them or didn’t listen to what they were saying.
Misinformed about the price
Nothing sets a customer off more than to see added charges to their bill, a higher price than anticipated when they go to check out, or an unexpected recurring payment coming out of their bank account. If customers aren’t provided with transparent information about the total cost of everything up front, anger will ensue.
Let’s face it: some customers just seem to be angry for no particular reason. They may start a conversation in an argumentative tone or with heated words.
Five techniques to minimize sticky situations:
1. Reflective listening
Reflective listening is a communication strategy that can be highly effective when interacting with difficult people. It’s a simple technique, which involves listening to the person’s statement and then repeating it back to them in different words. You can precede your statement back to them by saying something like, “It sounds like you’re saying…” or “It sounds like you feel X because of Y…”
What this does is 1) validates the person’s feelings, 2) lets the person know you really heard what they said, and 3) gives them an opportunity to respond about whether you accurately defined their thoughts. Sometimes people just want to be heard and understood, and then they calm down and are better equipped to have a rational conversation.
2. Don’t engage in the argument
One of the worst things you can do as a customer service representative is to argue back with an angry customer and further escalate the situation. This will go nowhere but downhill (and fast). Even if the customer is making false or irrational statements, don’t jump in and start arguing about the “facts.”
3. Ask questions
Questions make a person stop a minute to think about the answer, which can distract them from their anger. Asking questions also shows them that you are interested in learning more about the situation. Questions can be a subtle way to lead the customer to important information they may have misunderstood. For example, if the person is angry because there’s something unexpected about their invoice, asking them questions about specifics on their invoice will lead them to read parts of it. In doing so, they may see something they overlooked.
4. Be empathetic
Use a tone that is understanding and empathetic when dealing with angry customers. Also, using empathetic words can soothe an angry person. Remember that some people just want to be understood. Even if they are being unreasonable, your tone can help turn the entire situation around. However, fake empathy is easily detected so strive to really feel how the customer is feeling and keep the interaction as genuine as possible.
5. Make offers
Sometimes the only way to appease a customer is to give them something to make up for the problem. This could be a discount on the item in question or a future item. It could be a gift from the company. When customers feel compensated for their trouble, they will likely continue with your company.
Dealing with angry customers is all part of being in business. However, you don’t want to let the negativity cling to you. Move past the difficult situation and consider it an opportunity to learn new customer service skills. You’ll be better equipped the next time you face this type of situation.