There is a powerful tool anyone can use to keep customers coming back. In fact, this tool is so good it can keep a customer who is so mad they’ve already decided they’ll never do business with your company again.
It’s easy to use. It’s easy to remember. It doesn’t cost anything. And it can transform your worst customer contact situations into your best.
So, what is this high-powered, super-secret service weapon that is so effective and yet so easy to use?
That’s it. Just two simple words. Said with honesty, sincerity and conviction, these two words can turn a raging complainer into a raving fan.
Most people never apologize. Even when they should, they don’t. Many people don’t even think of apologizing even when they have caused something to happen that deserves an apology. Others think of apologizing and they realize they should.
But they never do.
I don’t know what the reason is (and I’m not about to start guessing) but in our culture, many, many people have a hard time apologizing when they do something wrong.
It’s even more difficult for people to apologize for something someone else did.
And this is where the customer service problems start.
In every company, problems happen. And usually the problems are not caused by the people who have to deal with the fallout. Yet, they are charged with diffusing a tense situation, resolving a problem and keeping a customer when the stuff hits the fan. It’s their job to make the bad situation better, so the customer will continue doing business with the company.
In a sense, customer service people are corporate apologists. That’s their job. They don’t cause the problems but they are there to apologize for them.
So, you can see the challenge we face.
We live in a culture where many people won’t even apologize for things THEY did wrong. Yet, we have companies employing people whose jobs are to apologize for mistakes caused by others.
The first step in fixing this is to understand how to serve people who are angry with our company. It doesn’t matter why they’re angry. All that matters is that they are mad and they have made contact with one of our employees to communicate their anger.
This is actually a good thing. By taking the time to contact our company, they’re giving us one last chance to make things right. So, we need to make the most of this last chance. We need to serve them. We need to help them accomplish what they want to accomplish. That’s the definition of service.
This begs the question, "what are they trying to accomplish". The simple, four-step process I’m going to give you accomplishes that. Keep reading!
First, we need to dial down the intensity and emotion of the conversation, so we can get to a resolution. Second, we need to find out what they want to accomplish. Third, we need to help them get it.
Here’s how we do this.
Remember that this is a real person.
This is a real person with real feelings who happens to be mad at your company right now. They’re not really mad at you (though they may sound like it). They’re mad at something that happened as they did business with your company. Pretend it’s your best friend or your spouse or your grandmother. Make them human, not a monster.
Remember what your job is.
Your job is to help this person decide if they should remain a customer of your company. Your job is not to explain or defend or make excuses for what happened. You don’t know what happened. And, frankly, it’s not your job to find out.
Your job is to clear through the clutter and noise of their anger and help resolve the situation. If you do your job well, most angry customers will decide to keep doing business with your company. And they’ll treat you well as a result. But, focus on your goal, not on their anger.
Apologize and mean it.
Qualified apologies are worthless. Empty apologies do more harm than good. One thing I hate is when someone starts to apologize but then they surround it with qualifiers and excuses. Some people even turn it around and use the apology to accuse the other person of something worse!
Do it honestly and sincerely.
This easy if you remember it’s your job, it will make the rest of the conversation a lot less stressful and, you’re not taking the blame for anything. You’re just apologizing. All you’re doing is saying "I’m sorry". You’re not saying "I’m sorry I messed up" or "I’m sorry we caused you pain and agony." You’re just saying "I’m sorry."
It’s that easy.
Again, by apologizing, you’re not accepting the blame for the problem (because you really don’t know what the problem is). But you are taking responsibility for getting past the problem. You are telling your customer that you care about them. You’re telling them your company cares about them.
An apology is the best way to say you care.
Because honest and sincere apologies are so rare, this usually gets the other person to stop their ranting or at least dial down their emotions. This opens the door for a better, clearer conversation.
Ask them how you can help.
"What can I do?"
Or, "How can I help you with this?"
Understand you won’t necessarily be in a position to fix the problem And you won’t always be able to do everything everyone wants you to.
But you have to ask..
Asking gets you 97% of the way to a resolution.
Even if you’re unable to give someone everything they want, at least you’ve started the conversation. You can always elevate their request to someone with more authority.
Remember, customers contact you to complain for three reasons:
1.They want to vent and unload.
2.They want compensation for their troubles.
3.They want an apology.
In almost all cases they want to remain your customer. Sure there are a few who are looking to "profit" by getting something for nothing. But most people are not like that. In fact, most people will never complain. They’ll just dump you and move on.
The simple fact that someone has taken the time to complain almost always means they want to remain a customer. They are giving your company another chance.
The four-step method outlined above addresses all three reasons people complain. It helps you make the most of your last chance to keep them as a customer.
Next time you have an angry customer on the other end of your phone (or standing in front of you) remember this easy system. Use each of the four steps and you’ll have a better chance of turning an angry customer into a life-long customer.