How to handle the irate customer? Check out How to Talk so Kids will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk by Adel Farber and Elaine Mazlish (the teen version is equally excellent). This bible of child rearing is one of the best non-business books that makes perfect sense in the business world. Read it and you will believe.
One of the best take-aways from the book was how to use the following expressions Uh-huh, Oh, Interesting, Really? I See and Mmm, along with sympathetic silence, during a customer rant. It was astonishing at how powerful these simple little words made it possible to diffuse/resolve a situation with the irate, unreasonable, emotionally charged, often loud, unhappy-and-wanting-justice customer in the calmest, most peaceful way possible. Speaking from experience, these practical tactics (and some appropriately interjected humor) help to restore sanity and harmony in a tough customer/workplace situation. Though we might fantasize about strongly articulating, why you gotta be so mean?, logically, we know that a defensive posture will just be a lose-lose situation. In the end, what we really want is to retain a customer who will remember that we tried hard to solve a problem to his/her satisfaction.
Here is an excerpt from a summary of the book …..The more I move through life and the business world, however, I am struck how the same techniques enhance communication between adults in all aspects of life. This book should also be listed in the Business/Management section. It says all the same things the high-priced consultants say — treat people with respect, do not deny their emotions, state the facts (only) and shut up and listen. This book also talks about giving praise and recognition, which makes it another reason to use it in real life, inside the family AND outside in the “real” world.
Some tips with tactics from the book:
Apologize and Listen. Immediately respond to the customer problem with, You do sound unhappy, my apologies. Let me help you. (or) I’m so sorry, I want to try and turn this around (or) if all else fails, It sounds like we owe you an apology.
Then…let the customer talk and respond at intervals with, Oh (or) Interesting (or) Uh huh (or) Really? (or) Mmm (or) I See (non-judgmental words) so that the customer knows you are listening.
Treat people with respect: actively listen, acknowledge with short bursts of Oh (or) Interesting (or) Uh huh (or) Really? (or) Mmm (or) I See. If appropriate, throw in a that does sound frustrating. As the customer is able to air the complaint, he/she should start to calm down.
On the other hand, if the customer is just becoming increasingly angry and/or abusive, try to retain integrity and calm and say something like, I understand that you’re very unhappy and I want to help you, but at this point I need to put the president of the company on the phone (or) I need to ask for your name and number so that the president of the company can call you back.
State the facts back: Ask yes or no questions, only, to get the full details of the complaint. And to reach a resolution. Once you think you have it, remain sympathetic. State back the problem and resolution. Gain agreement that the resolution you’ve discussed is understood by the customer. Say something like: So that we’re both comfortable (another good word from the book), we’ve decided that our company will fix the equipment and you will pay to have it shipped to our location (or) Just to confirm, you understand the step-by-step set-up instructions and you are now comfortable in completing the set-up?
Thank the person for calling; document the conversation point by point.
And be awed at the huge impact of Oh (or) Interesting (or) Uh huh (or) Really? (or) Mmm (or) I See!
Hope this was helpful. Thanks for reading and subscribing!