Few things control a brand’s reputation more than the way it responds to customer complaints and deals with unhappy customers. Customer service has always been an integral aspect of developing a brand image. In fact, customer service is the center of the business model that allowed organizations like Nordstrom’s and Zappos to grow. With the Internet and social networks enabling customers to share their experiences with brands and products, it is becoming even more critical for businesses to provide unmatched customer service.
The way you respond to customer comments will determine what they say about your business to their family and friends. So, what can you do to make sure that you treat your customers well and respond to their feedback in a manner such that you both experience a positive outcome? Is there a way you can make annoyed customers helpful to your business so that instead of treating them like a challenge, you see them as an opportunity for growth? Yes, there is. Each disgruntled customer has the potential for becoming a loyal customer, your brand’s best advertisement and a referral source – but only if you are willing to listen and respond appropriately.
Here are some specific tips and techniques to help you deal with angry and difficult customers:
- Put yourself in the customers’ shoes: Once you learn that your customer is unhappy, your priority should be to put yourself into the customer’s mindset. This means that you must set aside any thoughts that the situation is not your fault, or that your customer has made a mistake. Your customers’ experiences are all that matter, and it is your responsibility to resolve their issues. Adjust your mindset so that you can completely focus on the customer and the current situation.
- Listen actively: This is the most important step in the entire process. You must listen actively to what your customer is saying. It is very much possible that all your customer wants is to be heard and to air his or her grievances. Try to start the dialogue with a neutral statement that can create a partnership between you and your customer, and show that you are ready to listen. It is important to resist the temptation to jump to conclusions or resolve the problem immediately.
- Do not take the feedback personally: Addressing a customer’s problem in a personalized manner does not mean taking the feedback personally. Try not to put too much emphasis on an individual customer’s complaint, and remind yourselves that their dissatisfaction with your product or services does not define you as a person. Do your best to address and resolve the customer issue without letting the discontent get to you personally. While this is easier said than done, managing such situations professionally, and not taking the negative feedback personally, may help you win back an unhappy customer.
- Offer a solution: Once you understand why your customer is dissatisfied, offer a solution. Ask your customer to identify possible solutions or put forward a fair and realistic answer to the problem. In most cases, a solution is what the customer is looking for, and a win-win solution may provide some degree of satisfaction. However, the idea is not to win back the customer’s business. Your goal is also to win back your customer’s affection, loyalty and trust.
- Do follow-up with the customer: After all is said and done, be sure to check back with the customer. You can use this follow-up as an opportunity to determine if your customer was looking for the same solution that you offered, and if he or she is happy with the outcome. This gesture will show that you care about customer satisfaction and are willing to go the extra mile to make sure your customers are happy with your service. While you cannot totally stop unpleasant customer experiences from happening, you can have a communication strategy in place to address the situation as quickly as possible.
Dealing with angry customers is challenging. However, if you handle the situation well, you may be able to turn an unhappy customer into your brand ambassador and create further growth opportunities. Make sure that you listen actively to your customers’ feedback, and resist the urge to address or resolve the issues right away. When you approach customer complaints and criticism with an open mind and a desire to help, you will be able to grow your business and improve your online reputation.