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More often than not, once customer has had an initial chance to vent his rage, it's going to die down a little, and that's your opportunity to take step in.
Even if he has started calming down on his own, there comes a moment - and I can almost guarantee you'll sense it - to help calm him down. Try something along lines of: "It sounds like something has gone wrong, and I can understand your frustration. I'm sorry you're experiencing this problem. Let's take a look at next step."
Try to calm yourself first, and then to acknowledge his feelings. Say, "I can tell you're upset..." or, "It sounds like you're angry..." then connect to customer by apologizing, or empathizing. When you say something like "I'm sorry that happened. If I were you, I'd be frustrated, too." It's amazing how much of a calming effect that can have.
Remember, anger is a natural, self-defensive reaction to a perceived wrong. If there is a problem with your companyís product or service, some frustration and disappointment is justified.
This is so important, let me repeat it. First you listen carefully and completely to customer. Then you empathize with what customer is feeling, and let him or her know that you understand. This will almost always calm customer down. You've cracked shell of egg. Now, you can proceed to deal with problem.
2. IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM. Sometimes while angry customer is venting, you'll be able to latch right on to problem because it's clear-cut. Something is broken. Or late. Or he thinks a promise has been broken.
But sometimes in middle of all that rage, it's tough to comprehend bottom-line issue. This is a good place for some specific questions. Ask customer to give you some details. "What day did he order it, when exactly was it promised. What is his situation at moment?" These kind of questions force customer to think about facts instead of his/her feelings about those facts. So, you interject a more rational kind of conversation. Think of this step of process as cutting through white of egg to get to yolk at center.
It's important, when you think you understand details, to restate problem. You can say, "Let me see if I have this right. You were promised delivery last Friday, because you need it for an important project this coming week. But you haven't received our product yet. Is that correct?"
He will probably acknowledge that you've sized up situation correctly. Or, he may say, "No, that's not right" and then proceed to explain further. In either case outcome is good, because you will eventually understand his situation correctly, and have him tell you that "Yes, that's right."
And at that point you can apologize. Some people believe that an apology is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. But you can appreciate and apologize for customer's inconvenience without pointing fingers. Just say, "Mr. Brady, I'm sorry this has happened." Or "Mr. Brady. I understand this must be very frustrating. Let's just see what we can do fix it, OK?"
3. AVOID BLAME. You don't want to blame customer by saying something like "Are you sure you understood price and delivery date correctly?" This will just ignite his anger all over again because you are questioning his credibility and truth-telling.
And you don't want to blame your company or your suppliers Never say, "Iím not surprised your invoice was wrong. It's been happening a lot." Or, "Yes, our backorders are way behind."
In general, you AVOID BLAME. Which is different than acknowledging responsibility. For example, if you know, for a fact, a mistake has been made, you can acknowledge it and apologize for it. "Mr. Brady, clearly there's a problem here with our performance. I can't change that, but let me see what I can do to help you out because I understand how important your project is."
4. RESOLVE THE PROBLEM. Now youíre at heart of egg. You won't always be able to fix problem perfectly. And you may need more time than a single phone call. But it's critical to leave irate customer with understanding that your goal is to resolve problem. You may need to say, "I'm going to need to make some phone calls." If you do, give customer an idea of when youíll get back to him: "Later this afternoon." Or "First thing in morning."
Then do it. Make phone calls. Get information. Find out what you can do for this customer and do it. Then follow up with customer when you said you would. Even if you don't have all information you need, call when you said you would and at least let him know what you've done, what you're working on and what your next step will be. Let customer know that he and his business are important to you, that you understand his frustration, and that you're working hard to get things fixed.
Use tools of respect and empathy, and "crack egg" process, and you'll move your professionalism up a notch. ###
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