You work hard and your employees do, too. You provide quality products and services. You always put the customer first. But, for any business owner, there is bound to be a time when you are approached by an upset customer, whether they are standing before you at the counter, demanding apologies over the phone – or these days, venting on Twitter or Facebook.
Most of us will agree that disgruntled customers are an opportunity. Think about it. They’re already engaged with your business on an emotional level, so if you can find a resolution that satisfies them, they are likely to share the positive emotion as well and stay (positively) engaged with your company.
So, how can you turn an unhappy customer into a happy one?
Here are seven tips on how to diffuse the situation to turn a negative into a positive.
- Acknowledge their anger by listening. Let them speak their mind, make eye contact if in person, and don’t interrupt. Show that you understand why they are upset and show them that you’re on their side and they have a right to their emotion. It’s pretty simple: building trust between a customer and a business strengthens through simply listening to them.
- Keep emotion out of it. In Business Week’s Three Steps to Calming Angry Customers, experts recommend that when a customer’s voice rises, you should lower yours because this “sends a signal to the brain that helps reduce anxiety for both your customer and you.”
- Apologize quickly. Before they demand one. If a mistake was made, then own up to it. If you don’t think a mistake was made on your behalf, still show the customer you’re on their team by apologizing for the problems it caused them.
- Don’t get hung up on the technicalities. This is common in businesses that provide complex services, like computer or auto repair, Tech Republic’s 10 Things You Should Not Do When Dealing With An Angry Customer offers great advice on this saying that upset customers just want the problem resolved and acknowledgement that the problem did occur. They may not really care about the why’s of how the situation occurred. By focusing only “on the technical problem while failing to recognize and mention the inconvenience to your customers, chances are they’ll remain dissatisfied even after you resolve the technical problem.
- Find a solution, and make the customer a part of the process. People are successful when they are a part of something they helped create. So, try asking the customer what can be done to correct the problem. If their suggestions are not feasible, carefully explain why and offer up a compromise you can live with.
- Stop online chatter. If the customer complaint or negative post is online, my blog post, How to Handle Negative Online Reviews, has some tips that will help. The most important rule of thumb to remember when handling upset customers online is to respond online but then take the conversation offline by offering your phone number or email address.
- Follow up. There’s excellent advice in 10 Powerful Steps to Diffuse Angry Customers from BusinessKnowHow.com including our final reminder to follow up with your customer if feasible to see that the solution has been effective. Try a simple phone call, email, or postcard. This attention sends a strong message that you really do care about your customers and are dedicated to seeing that issues stay resolved.
What advice do you have for other local businesses dealing with upset customers? Do you have any stories to share about turning an angry customer into a loyal one?
David Domos developed WhyBuyFromYou.com to provide content to help small businesses develop their branding, marketing and sales systems. In the past he held key leadership positions for a fortune 500 company. That company led the market in both sales and brand awareness and David was a significant contributor to its growth. David has been on the Amazon.com best seller list in their Direct Marketing, Communications and Entrepreneurship categories. He is a student of sales, marketing, branding & small business growth, continually focusing on the reason people buy. Follow him on Twitter @WhyBuyFromYou.