What to do When Your Customer is About to Explode

Ron Kaufman

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When things go wrong, many customers get upset. Some blow up in anger. The next time your customer is ready to explode, use these five proven steps to sanity.

Step One: Let them blow off steam! No one is rational when they have pent up anger and emotion. Let your customer vent the rage and fury. Don’t take it personally, and don’t get in the way. Open a channel for them to let off the pressure.

Years ago I had a problem with a shipment by an express courier company. I called the company and got a reasonable sounding woman on the phone.

‘You folks messed up!’ I yelled.

‘OK, ’ she replied in a very attentive tone.

‘This was a really important shipment!’ I continued loudly.

‘OK, ’ she replied with concern.

‘And my customer is going to be very upset, ’ I complained.

‘OK, ’ she replied again a calm voice.

‘Well, what are you going to do about it?’ I finally asked, exhausted by my own tirade.

She paused a moment. ‘OK?’ she asked gently.

‘OK, ’ I replied, smiling at her quiet but effective approach. And then we began the process of working things out.

Imagine if she had asked me for all the information right away! In my anger, it would have taken twice as long to give her the details, and extended my frustration, too.

Instead, she gave me the space and time to simply ‘blow off steam’, not taking it personally, allowing her angry customer (me!) to settle down.

Step Two: Show the customer you are ‘on their side’ . Let the customer know you are there to help, not to argue, defend or disagree. Phrases like these will work: ‘Oh! I am really sorry to hear that. Can you tell me exactly what happened?’ or ‘I can certainly understand your frustration. Let me be the one to help you. ’

Phrases to avoid are these: ‘That’s strange. It’s never happened like that before. Are you sure that’s what happened?’ and ‘It’s not our policy to do anything over the phone. You have to write to us or come in personally. ’

Some words can trigger angry conversations. Avoid phrases like: ‘Whose fault is this?’ and ‘Who is to blame?’ or ‘About your accusation. . . ’ These sound like a police investigation or a court case. . . which is not where you want to end up!

Step Three: Tell your customer exactly what you will do on their behalf. Explain what steps you will take, and when you will get back in touch with the results.

Step Four: Take fast action! Get the problem fixed. Resolve the misunderstanding. Champion the cause of your customer within your organization. And when you do fix the problem, go the extra mile. Give them a bit more than they expect. They will remember and appreciate your efforts.

Step Five: Finally, go back to the customer and explain how the problem has been resolved. Ensure they are fully satisfied, and thank them for allowing you to help.

Key Learning Point

Angry customers can be effectively defused, and then well-served, with this proven, step-by-step plan of action.

Action Steps

Be sure all your staff understand and can implement these steps, especially under pressure!

Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed educator and motivator for partnerships and quality customer service. He is author of the bestselling “UP Your Service!" and founder of “UP Your Service College". Visit http://www.UpYourService.com for more such Customer Service articles, subscribe to his Newsletter, or to buy his bestselling Books, Videos, Audio CDs on Customer Service from his secure Online Store . You can also watch Ron live or listen to him at http://www.RonKaufman.com .


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