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What to Do When a Customer Yells at You

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What to Do When a Customer Yells at You

The customer was completely irrational and used language that would have made Gordon Ramsey proud. “Mr Angry Pants” was yelling down the phone at me for what felt like forever but it was probably only two minutes. Eventually, as most (not all) angry customers do, he got to the end of his rant and then asked in a very stern tone, what I was going to do to fix the mess I had created.

What I wanted to say was; “I haven’t created the mess – you did! You obviously didn’t listen when you first engaged our services because if you did, this wouldn’t have happened”. I also wanted to point out that he was incredibly rude and that if he wants my help, he should hang up and ring back when hell freezes over.

But I didn’t. I thanked him for calling me. I acknowledged his feelings and then paraphrased the problems he had expressed (minus the French words). Once I had done that, he was ready to listen and by the end of the call, I had solved the problem and he had apologised for his behaviour.

Unhappy, upset, rude or angry customers are displaying bad behaviours because they are not in control of their emotions, their emotions are in control of them. The best way to move them from an emotional state to a rational state is to Actively Listen.

Active Listening is a skill that very few people have had formal training in – if they had, there would be less need for complaints departments, less Facebook rants about bad service and less stressed employees.

Active Listening requires you to ignore all distractions (including your own self-talk) whilst you are with an upset customer. You need to focus your eyes and your ears on the upset customer as you seek to understand their concerns and their state of mind; it means having empathy.

Once you feel you have gained the right amount of information, the second part of Active Listening is to paraphrase back to the customer what they have said. Summarise your understanding and include reference to the customer’s feelings ie: “I can see/hear you are really annoyed about this and that is understandable. You are worried that this will affect your……………. and you are annoyed that you have had to take time out of your day to address this.”  Make sure you use a genuine and respectful tone of voice.

Unhappy customers ache to be to be understood. We confirm we understand by paraphrasing what we heard before we offer solutions or make decisions. This allows us to check we have the right information but it also allows an emotional customer to re-asses their behaviour and priorities. If you want an angry customer to apologise for their bad behaviour and leave feeling valued and respected, it’s worth the effort to actively listen.

Consider this – Customer complaints are compliments.

Angry or upset customers have come to you for help. Someone asking you for help is a compliment. Sure, this request for help might be “wrapped in barbed wire”, but it is a compliment. If that doesn’t make you feel better how about this; We always hurt the ones we love. Maybe your angry customers love you? OK, that’s a long stretch.

If you would like help with how to communicate with unhappy customers and also how to recover after difficult customer interactions, have a look at my book “The A-Z of Service Excellence” You can download the first chapter for free.

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“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"



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