Customers can become rude or angry for a variety of reasons, especially when stress is high and patience runs short. Here are five steps to minimizing their anger and maximizing their loyalty.
- Hear them out. Most people listen to respond instead of to understand which makes it easy to interrupt a disgruntled customer with an answer to their problem. By listening to everything they have to say, you not only demonstrate respect, but gain a complete understanding of their issue. Dale Carnegie’s 15th Human Relations principle, ‘Let the other person do a great deal of the talking,’ ensures they feel heard and enables us to ask clarifying questions necessary for resolution.
- Put yourself in their shoes. An internet provider customer service rep may not understand why a customer is angry about waiting two days for a technician appointment until he learns she works from home. An airline gate agent may think a slight flight delay is no big deal—until a passenger announces she needs to land in time for a wedding rehearsal dinner. After listening to the customer, apply Mr. Carnegie’s 17th principle, ‘Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.’
- Thank them. Some complaints can be immediately resolved while others should be categorized as feedback and recorded for future improvements. Either way, be sure to, ‘Give honest, sincere appreciation,’ Carnegie’s 2nd principle. A simple, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention; I’ll be sure to notify the head of XYZ department so we can identify solution,” shows the feedback is appreciated and will be acted upon. Thanking a customer for her patience while you resolve the issue also goes a long way in the loyalty department. Whether it’s for their trouble, time, patience, phone call, etc., be sure to thank the customer with sincerity.
- Sympathize. A waiter once mistakenly told me that none of the restaurant’s food was fried in peanut oil after I asked because of my son’s severe nut allergies. When we discovered that the chicken fingers were fried in peanut oil, I felt the anger boil inside of me and immediately began medicating my son. When the waiter professed, “I am so sorry. My niece has a peanut allergy so I understand how serious this is,” I immediately calmed down and thanked him for being so concerned. Because he practiced Mr. Carnegie’s 18th principle, ‘Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires,’ he turned me from an angry customer into an appreciative one.
- Solve the problem. Once the customer feels heard and your sincere appreciation, proceed with resolving the problem as quickly as possible. If for some reason you cannot, hopefully you can offer them a credit or other equitable offering to conquer their anger. Share the scenario with appropriate parties within your organization so the learnings form the lesson are not lost. As Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”