Unfortunately, at some point you, and everyone else working at your company, is going to have to deal with clients who are emotionally taxing. These clients may be angry, upset, or even nasty. This can be be difficult to deal with, especially considering that in many cases, something you did isn’t even the real problem. The client may be having trouble in their life and they’re taking it out on you or your team. Be that as it may, it’s still important to treat these clients respectfully, even when they’re giving off a terrible vibe. Research has revealed that six out of ten customers will continue to do business with you, even after becoming angry at your product or service. That’s why training employees to deal with difficult customers is so important, and it’s a topic we’re going to look at closely in this article.
There are lots of different strategies for dealing with upset clients. In fact, if you find enough of them, you may even end up with conflicting advice! To help you navigate this rocky terrain, here is a simple, and yet very effective, five step system that you can easily teach your employees to help them deal with difficult clients.
Step One – Pause
Give the client room to express all of their grievances. It’s important to not interrupt them or to try and provide an immediate solution. Instead, listen and let them get out everything that they’d like to say. This step can also be called listen. Your employee’s job isn’t to say anything, it’s merely let the client say everything that they want to let out. This might not be fun for the employee to do, but it’s important.
Step Two – Acknowledge
The next step is for your employee is to repeat back, in their own words, the grievances expressed by the client. This is an important step for two reasons. First, it shows empathy on your employees part. It breaks down the border between client versus company, and shows the client that the person they’re talking to is on their side. Second, it also shows the client that your employee was listening, and that they understand the problem.
Step Three – Clarify
During this step, it’s your employee’s job to make sure they fully understand the problem. However, as an employee may need to ask multiple questions, it’s necessary to tell the client what’s happening before the questions start. Something as simple as “I need to make sure I fully understand the problem, so I’m going to ask you some questions. Is that alright?” Is usually plenty to ensure that the client knows what’s going on and they don’t get even more upset.
Step Four – Respond
Only after you’ve completed the first three steps is it actually time to respond to the client’s grievance. It’s important to train your employees to respond with an appropriate, positive tone. At the same time, you also shouldn’t make outlandish promises to a client just because they’ve called in angry. You’ll make the problem significantly worse if you promise a client a solution and then you don’t see it through to the end.
It’s important to note that when upset and angry, clients are not going to care about company policies, and they’re definitely not going to be interested in hearing about what services you won’t be able to offer them. That’s why it’s always better to respond with a clear plan that details what exactly your company can do to make the problem right. Later on, when tensions have cooled, it may then make sense to go into greater detail about company policy and the exact solutions that your company is capable of providing.
Step Five – Follow Up
Following up is one of the best ways to retain customers, even after they’ve had a negative experience with your product or service. By getting back into contact with a client a few days or a week after solving their problem, you can ensure that the solution is working for them and that they’re happy with it. This is a cost effective way to ensure customer satisfaction, and it’s a great practice to teach to all of your customer representatives.
Giving the Customer a Choice
Another important step in the process of dealing with difficult clients is to give them a choice. Instead of saying, “Here’s what we’ll do to make the problem right”, train your employees to say something more in line with “We have options X,Y, and Z available, which one do you think will work best for you?”. By giving the customer a choice you empower them and give the impression that you’re being very fair in dealing with them.
Creating a Customer Service Policy
Even though it’s important to ensure that angry customers are able to get the level of service that they need, that shouldn’t come at the cost of your customer service representatives having to deal with abuse. If a customer is using profanity or making threats, an employee should clearly warn them that they won’t tolerate this type of behavior, and they will end the conversation if it continues. Even if this results in losing a long term client, the alternative is not worth it. Employees should be your most valuable asset, and if they have to put up with verbal abuse with no recourse they’re not going to continue working for you for long.
Bringing it Together
Nobody likes dealing with an upset client. However, by following these steps you can train your employees to deal with the situation in a positive, straightforward manner. Not only will you retain more clients this way, you may even receive accommodations for your excellent customer service. Additionally, by having clear policies in place about how to deal with difficult clients, you’ll give your employees a head start in solving the problem, and you’ll take a large share of the burden off of their shoulders. Implement these steps into your company’s training program and you’ll begin to reap the rewards immediately!