It can be one of the toughest aspects of running your own business. In your store, or on the phone, is a customer. To describe them as angry would be an understatement.
It might be because the delivery company stuffed up their order or your servers crashed. Maybe one of your sales reps needs some extra coaching to stop them being as overzealous in the future. Or it could simply be a case of buyer’s remorse or a ploy to gain a bigger discount than the one you’ve already given them.
Before long, they begin likening your company to the regime of former dictator Manuel Noriega and their plight to a struggle for national liberation. Threats are being made to call Today Tonight, A Current Affair, Alan Jones and the UN Security Council. Forget about worldwide poverty or hunger – their order being delayed by two days is the biggest human rights violation the world has ever known!
Somewhere in the middle of their tirade, they begin screaming about how they’ve been a loyal customer for years they will never buy your products again – and will tell all their family and friends to do likewise. Fists pound desks.
If you run a business, this scene probably sounds all too familiar to you.
So what do you do when confronted by such a customer? Don’t sulk about it in the back office once they finally leave your store: LEAP (Listen, Empathise, Acknowledge and Propose a solution) into action.
The first step is to listen. As tough as it may seem, let them vent their spleen. If they get too over-the-top in their language, gently remind them that you can’t help them out if they swear, but otherwise let them get that anger out of their system. If you can, prompt them to talk to you about the issue.
The customer might have psyched themselves up all morning in preparation for a confrontation. Arguing back will just give them more fuel for that fire. Instead, empathise (as best you can) with their situation.
Then acknowledge their situation. Sometimes, this will mean an apology on behalf of your company. At the very least, acknowledge that you would feel upset if you were in their situation. It’s generally hard to argue with someone who agrees with you.
Finally, propose a solution. You don’t have a time machine. Even if you did, there might be little you could do about the wayward courier or the server that blew up. But while you mightn’t be able to turn back time; you might be able to help them some way in the future.
Next time you’re confronted by an angry customer, be prepared to LEAP into action. If you have any customer service staff, make sure you train them to do the same.
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