Few things are as stressful for a business owner or customer support representative as an angry client. A bad review can harm your business’ reputation and drive off future customers, and an irate person on the phone can make it challenging to keep your emotions calm and the conversation constructive.
The way in which you handle these moments is critical to your business’ reputation, to the satisfaction of your individual clients, and to your integrity as a business owner.
Here are five strategies that will help you to navigate this challenging terrain, so you can protect your business’ image, improve your relationships with your current clients, and make yourself more attractive to potential clients:
1. Don’t get angry and defensive.
When you’re being accused of something, and you feel like you’re under attack, it’s natural to want to protect yourself and to prove your accuser wrong.
But if you want to reconcile with your displeased client, and protect your business’ reputation, then it’s important not to treat your client as the enemy or to prioritize your pride over their needs.
Stay calm and polite, and remember that your goal is to satisfy your client, not to silence them.
2. Take responsibility for your part in creating the problem.
If there was a misunderstanding, tell them, “I can see how what I said could have come across that way. That wasn’t what I meant, and I’m sorry for the mix-up. What I was trying to say was…” and then explain your point of view.
That allows you to explain yourself, without turning it into an argument over what you did and did not say.
Or, if you made a mistake in your product, service or scheduling, tell them, “I’m sorry for (the mistake you made). It’s very important to me that you get what you need from my service, and I want to make it up to you.”
3. Ask questions and seek understanding.
This may seem counterintuitive because when someone is saying bad things about you, it’s natural not to want to hear more. But the first step toward reconciling with another person is to understand the source of their upset and to demonstrate that their problem matters to you.
So instead of trying to silence the angry client, ask them questions, and do your best to get a complete understanding of the problem. Also, ask if there are any other problems they’ve been having with you or your product.
This shows that you’re truly committed to making sure they have a good experience with you, and it gives you a chance to expose and deal with any hidden sources of resentment that might otherwise poison your relationship and their opinion of your company.
It also gives you a chance to learn and fine-tune your practices, so you can give better service to your future clients.
4. Pay attention to what your clients say.
One mistake that I’ve seen even large companies make, over and over again, is to make it obvious that they didn’t truly listen to their clients’ questions and concerns.
Sending the same information repeatedly, giving the client a link to the exact same help page on which they were requesting clarification, and sending links to forums that address the general topic of their problem, but that don’t actually offer a workable solution, are examples of mistakes I’ve personally seen.
When you or your customer support team have a lot of incoming mail, phone calls, reviews or support tickets to respond to, it can be tempting to cut corners and just skim over the messages instead of paying attention to each one.
But that approach creates the risk of telling your clients that you don’t care about them, and of destroying their faith in your willingness and ability to provide quality service.
It can also cause you to spend MORE time on each support call or ticket than you otherwise would have, because of all the time that was spent sending incorrect or partial solutions rather than finding the right one.
In the wise words of John Wooden, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
5. Offer a concrete solution.
If you missed a call because of a misunderstanding regarding time zones, set up a system for making sure that you’re both talking about the same time zone next time.
If your product had a defect, either tell them how to fix it or send them a replacement.
If something you said offended them, suggest a way in which you can handle discussing the offending topic more courteously in the future, and ask if that would work for them. Also, ask if there are any other topics on which you need to tread lightly or any other things you said that bothered them.
Whatever the nature of the mistake or misunderstanding, by proposing a concrete, specific solution, you show that you take the problem seriously and that you’re committed to giving your clients the best experience and service possible.
Stephanie O’Brien is a copywriter and business expert. She specializes in helping coaches to create high-selling group programs and fill them with clients, so they can help more people, make more money, and have more free time.
To learn more about her, and to discover how to attract more clients and change more lives, visit www.coachclientconnection.com.