Written by Vivek Jaiswal | Co-founder, Customer Guru
Managing disgruntled customers is probably the most difficult and taxing job for the customer-facing team. It is also one of the most critical facets of customer experience, particularly in services based industries such as Hospitality, Airlines, Banking etc. The biggest challenge in dealing with irate customer behaviour is that no matter how well trained the customer service team is, the negativity of such untoward situations always gets to them. It becomes even more difficult to stay calm when one knows that the customer is at fault. Getting into a heated argument with the customer is certainly not the best way to deal with it, instead, we recommend the following:
Most often, a sincere apology does the job of cooling down the customer. I cannot emphasise enough on the sincerity part. I am sure you have been on customer service calls where the agent would utter “Mr. Jaiswal, we are sorry for the inconvenience” in the most insincerely-reading-out-of-the-script way. Customers are human, they can sense the difference. When the apology is given just for the sake of it, it further aggravates the anger. Coaching the frontline employees to empathise with the customers’ pain – however unrealistic or unreasonable – is important. Half the battle is won just by acknowledging the concern.
Make sure that any debate over a customer’s issue is not done in the open. It affects other customers and also other employees. The best way to deal with it is to take it in your cabin/office or far away from the reception area to isolate the negativity. It might not be easy to request a disgruntled customer to move the discussion to a meeting room. However, a statement such as the following will work more often than not:
“We are terribly sorry for the inconvenience, Sir/Ma’am. We will do anything to resolve the situation. In order to address it in the best possible way, would you mind if we sit down and talk about it in my office/cabin? We would be able to understand your concerns and also discuss the best way to resolve it.”
We all know those kinds of customers who are difficult to please and are eager to complain. Dealing with such customers is a challenge, and if you get biased that they will always complain no matter what you do, you will never be able to overcome their criticism. Avoid getting biased against them. Instead tune up your service level a couple of notches because if you could win their heart, you will earn lifelong rewards too! As much as such customers whine, they are equally candid in sharing a great experience and recommending your business to others.
This is probably the easiest trap to fall into because it’s easier to point to others than accept your own fault. The traditional axiom that the customer is always right is true to a great extent, but we often come across people who are far from such an ideal persona of a customer. Even when dealing with such customers, one should totally steer clear of fault finding and redirect all discussions to finding the best solution. One can spend hours trying to find who is at fault and never arrive at a solution. Instead, leading the discussion in finding a solution will save time and help improve the customer experience too.
Most of the times, customer-facing employees pull out the policy document in front of a disgruntled customer to avoid making costly decisions. It is a good move to avoid upfront costs, however denying service to a customer has a far greater impact on the brand reputation. So, the next time you face a customer with a burnt shirt that you are not sure was burnt by your laundry team, be willing to pay for that shirt; your brand value is far more than the cost of that shirt!
I am sure there are several other ways to manage annoyed customers, please share your views and opinions in the comments below.
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