By John Tschohl

No matter how good you are at what you do, what business you are in or where it is located, you will, at some point, find yourself facing an irate customer. But if you follow a few key steps, you can turn that unhappy customer into a satisfied shopper who will reward you and your company with his or her loyalty and business. Here's how.

When most people come in contact with an irate customer, their first instinct is to turn and run. Dealing with a customer who has a problem and is upset about it can be more than a little daunting. With the proper perspective, however, you will see that the customer’s complaint is actually an opportunity for you and your organization to put your best foot forward.

Customers who have complaints are blessings in disguise. They let you know where you and your organization have flaws and provide you with opportunities to correct them.  When you do, you will realize increased customer loyalty, revenues and profits. It’s a win/win situation.

Dealing with irate customers and solving their problems is a critical element of your customer service. When dealing with an irate customer, take these steps: 

1. Listen carefully and with interest to what the customer is telling you.

2.  Apologize without laying blame, regardless of who is at fault.

3. Put yourself in the customer’s place, and respond in a way that shows you care about his or her concerns. Use phrases such as, “I understand that must be upsetting,” or “I don’t blame you for being upset; I would feel the same way.”

4. Ask pertinent questions in a caring, concerned manner, and actively listen to the answers.

5. Suggest one or more alternatives that would address the customer’s concerns.

6. Solve the problem quickly and efficiently, or find someone who can.

Using these steps will quickly calm most unhappy or angry customers and allow you to address and solve their problems. Patience and tact are key.

It’s important that even if a customer is making outrageous statements and, in essence, throwing a fit, you remain calm. Do not take those statements personally. Apologize, take the blame and empathize with the customer, then solve the problem.

There are four things you should not do that are just as important as what you should do:

1. Don’t directly challenge someone who has a complaint and is angry. Even if that customer is wrong, don’t attempt to prove it. Your goal is to solve the problem, not to enter into a debate on the merits of the complaint.

2. Don’t let the conversation wander or get off the topic. Solve the crisis at hand without looking for, and finding, additional problems.

3. Don’t participate in fault finding. Shifting blame doesn’t help anyone.

4. Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way. Stay cool, and use courtesy and tact to defuse the situation.

When you successfully handle irate customers and their complaints, you will be rewarded with satisfied customers — customers who will be loyal to you and your organization. That loyalty will have a positive impact on your organization’s bottom line and make you look like a hero. 

John Tschohl, an internationally recognized service strategist, is founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minn.

Described by USA Today, Time and Entrepreneur as a “customer service guru,” he has written several books on customer service and has developed more than 26 customer-service training programs that have been distributed throughout the world.

Click here to subscribe to Mr. Tschohl’s free monthly newsletter. 

Contact Mr. Tschohl at  (800) 548-0538.

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