We’ve all heard that fiery phone call. A frustrated, angry customer or patient blows up your phone with a ready list of complaints, blaming the product, your staff, or your company as a whole. Whether you’re a business owner or customer service representative, odds are that you will run into a customer freak out at some point in your career. They’re upset, they want answers, and must be treated with caution.
We’ve written before about how to react to negative reviews on sites such as Yelp, but it can be difficult to coach your team on what to do when they receive calls like this. But today we’re going to tackle that exact problem! What steps do you and your team need to take when approached by an upset client over the phone?
Listen; Don’t Interrupt
A customer who calls in with a complaint cares enough to pick up the phone, rather than send an email or a scathing review. As such, you need to give them space to vent. Let them talk and voice all their concerns before you jump in. This also may go without saying, but take down what they’re saying while they talk. If you have their account on hand, pull it up to add your notes.
But never interrupt them, as this could just escalate the issues.
Acknowledge Their Issues
Imagine you’re speaking with your friends about a relationship problem you have. We ask our friends for advice because we’re either looking for validation or looking for what we did wrong. In a way, this is what your customer is doing when they call you.
Even if you are sure that you and your team are not in the wrong, the customer thinks you are. Validate what they’re feeling by using phrases such as “I understand how you’re feeling”, “These are valid concerns”, or “That does sound frustrating.” You don’t need to apologize just yet, but definitely acknowledge that there must be a fire under all this smoke.
Watch Your “I’s” and “You’s”
It takes a team effort to achieve a goal, so position yourself and your client as being on the same side. This will keep you both on the same page, and will reassure the client that the problems will be addressed on both sides. You can deliver this message with something as simple as replacing “I” with “we” and “you” with a non-confrontational phrasing. Consider the following examples:
Off The Phone: Take Stock of Blame
Alright, the phone call is over. The storm has passed. You have notes on what went wrong, and what the issues could be. However, the worst thing you could do at this point is to start playing the blame-game. It can feel easy and facetious to make comments such as “That client is so spoiled” or “always wrong” but this does NOT help to resolve the matter. Eliminate these immature thoughts and focus on the problem at hand.
Be honest with yourself and your team. Everyone juggles tasks each and every day, so ask yourself, was there a ball dropped somewhere? Or is the client truly in the wrong or receiving the wrong advice from another source? By pinpointing these trouble spots, you may be able to avoid them with future clients.
Understand What They Want and Act!
Look over the notes from the call with your team and ensure that you’re all on the same page. The faster you can address the problem, the happier your customer will be with your response. If it’s a problem that can’t be fixed immediately, make a list of what needs to be done and delegate accordingly. If needed, give each delegated task a deadline. Throughout each milestone towards completion, keep the customer in the loop about the progress.
But Don’t Make False Promises
It can be an easy defense to promise the moon for an upset client. Beware of making such vaulted claims, as these could just end with disappointment for both sides if you can’t achieve it.
Instead, ask the client what he or she is searching for in a resolution. What are their expectations, and go from there.
Communicate and Be Responsive
As we mentioned above, it’s important to maintain an open line of communication to the client. This does NOT mean that you need to call them everyday, but do send them updates as their issue is in the process of being resolved.
Even something as simple as acknowledging that an email was received can put the customer at ease. If there’s any confusion, don’t be afraid to get in touch with them by asking for their confirmation on certain details.
By following these steps, hopefully you can avoid a meltdown and put yourself and your client on the right path toward peaceful resolution. Remember, as a business owner or customer service representative, it’s your duty to maintain a level head and approach the situation from a more analytical stance. Uncover the root of the issue and maintain contact with the client as their issues are being addressed.