No matter how high or low you are in the workplace pecking order, there is no escaping difficult clients and customers. Unfortunately, they abound but don't tell anyone. Though dealing with one can be super frustrating, you do have a choice in making it an experience that’s a “pulling teeth” kind of painful, or… something a little less so.
It’s all in how you approach the situation, your attitude and heart posture, and ensuring you take the correct steps to keep it from escalating as quickly as possible. There’s nothing quite like the dread one feels at being the target of an angry tirade, but by following a few key suggestions, you can hopefully turn things around and offer a solution that satisfies your grumpy cat.
Step 1: Listen Respectfully
You really can’t understand what the problem is without listening and actually hearing your irate customer. Listening only to react instead of responding is counterproductive and usually will not end well. You have to actively listen to your customer in order to respond thoughtfully with a possible solution. Stay calm and steady, keep eye contact if you’re chatting face-to-face, and allow the customer to say what they need to say without stoking the fire even more.
Step 2: Make Them Feel Heard
There are times that an irritable customer may not even want a solution, they simply want to feel as though they’ve been heard and that their complaint is validated. A great way to do this is to repeat what they’ve just said back to them. If you’re on track and understand what they are trying to convey, usually they will tell you which means a resolution is on the horizon. If you didn’t understand, they’ll tell you that too, which also serves to also help you better assess their needs and find an appropriate solution.
Step 3: Be Willing to Say You’re Sorry
Even if the customer’s problem isn’t your fault and you are not responsible, an apology can go a long way and help to defuse a customer’s anger. Once you’ve apologized and de-escalated the situation, it paves the way for better communication so that you can both hopefully find an acceptable resolution.
Step 4: Acknowledge There May Be a Problem
Like an apology, acknowledging your customer’s complaint can also go a long way in smoothing troubled waters. Most people won’t bother to complain about something unless they really care about it. That means they care about your product or service, which should be a compliment. Even if their complaint isn’t really a valid one, by acknowledging the problem and responding with empathy, you can gain ground and move toward resolution.
Step 5: Offer an Explanation
Sometimes a customer may be irate because of something you did or contributed to. If that’s the case, explain it and take ownership. If you don’t know how the problem occurred and it had nothing to do with you, reassure your customer that you will investigate and contact them with additional information. Don’t offer any more information until you know exactly what the problem is, although you can give them a timeframe on when you’ll get back to them.
Step 6: Offer Solutions
Once you know what the problem is definitively, you can then offer appropriate solutions. Try to give your customer some options because they may not be happy with your first proposed solution. But if they can choose from more than one option, they feel more “in control” and will often walk away happier.
Step 7: End On a Kind Note
Make sure to ask if there’s anything else they need help with before you close down communications with a grumpy cat. Some complainers may have more than one complaint, but they get so caught up in complaining, they forget what all they wanted to complain about! Yes, that’s a thing. This will save time in the long run, because you can address all their complaints in one go and send them on their way.
When you do send them off, be sure to thank them and do everything you can to express how grateful you are for their business. When you send them off on a high note, they feel seen, heard, and valued. There’s no person on earth that doesn’t appreciate that!
Navigating customer relationships can be tricky but done well, can leave you with loyal fans. Looking to enhance your communication with clients and customers to promote positive relations? We are here to help! Give us a call.