Despite the many ways businesses work to prevent them, an occasional call from an upset customer is unavoidable. What triggers a caller’s frustration may not always be in your control, but resolving the call and providing an excellent customer experience follow-up is—always.
Keep these four tips in mind if you and your employees are faced with an upset customer:
1. Acknowledge the caller
Even if they are upset, a customer who reaches out to you wants your acknowledgment and response for their situation and feelings.
Consider this: According to a survey commissioned for American Express, U.S. consumers overwhelmingly prefer to resolve their customer service issues using the telephone—90%—as opposed to company website or email (67%), online chat (47%), text message (22%) or social networking sites (22%). The ability to talk person-to-person with a caller is the unique benefit you have; capitalize on it by listening and connect with your potential customer on an emotional level. Machines can’t empathize, but you can.
Pay attention to your tone of voice, and try to use words like “I see,” “That is frustrating,” and “I am sorry.” What you say and how you say it are verbal “bridges” between the caller and you, so avoid long sentences and anything a caller could interpret as an accusation. With each acknowledgment, you help diffuse the callers’ frustration and work toward identifying the real problem, not fighting emotion.
2. Get to the problem
Once you’ve acknowledged the caller and worked to calm him or her, try to identify the real problem. Don’t rely on what you understand immediately; ask for the background and inciting issue, not only so you understand, but to create a record of the situation. Repeat back to the caller what he or she is saying, and ask questions to fill in any holes as to what the customer’s expectation actually was.
When you’ve identified the problem, keep the situation neutral. The caller has a definite opinion of fault, and you may too, but don’t kill the call by placing blame or giving an excuse for what the caller has taken as offensive.
3. Clarify what you can and can’t do for the caller
Mogul Richard Branson says this about empowering employees to make decisions that work for customers:
“No company can train its front-end people to handle every situation, but you can strive to create an environment in which they feel at ease ‘doing as they would be done by.'”
Customer service expert and New York Times best-selling author Shep Hyken had this to add:
“It’s okay to have some guidelines and boundaries. Be careful about calling them rules or policies. The word “guideline” implies some flexibility. Employees must understand that they bend to meet the needs of the customer, as long as it doesn’t cause harm to the company.”
Both quotes come from real-life situations the men experienced at the hands of employees who didn’t—or didn’t know they could—look for a way to say yes. Establish parameters, but empower your employees to look for all solutions to a problem, and remind them that “no” is not a substitute for “I don’t know.” If an employee doesn’t know how to handle a specific call issue, teach them to tell the caller they can and will find someone who does. And insist on follow through.
4. Follow up
Even if a call began negatively, these tips can help you and your employees recover an upset caller and resolve the issue. Then, you can finalize an excellent total customer experience by following up with the caller.
- Offer statements like “how does that sound?” and “will that work for you?” Give the customer assurance about the resolution.
- Give the customer incentive to come back.
- Thank the customer genuinely for his or her time spent with you, and leave them with a smile.
- Find a way to surprise and delight your customer: a personal, hand-written note or a phone call to say thanks are simple, effective ways to convey the customer’s importance to you and your company.
- Simply calling the customer back and resolving their experience issue is a great way to show that your company cares. (We even provide an easy way to call back and resolve customer experience issues)
So, why does your company’s follow-up response matter every single time? Take a look at these numbers from Bloomberg:
- 51% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience in 2012.
- 81% of those who switch say the company they dropped could have done something to prevent them from leaving, and not just lowering prices. Most consumers that change providers say that while price is important so is having a good experience.
One of the most effective ways you can capitalize on each type of conversation is to know that it happened, record it, evaluate it and then use it as a tool in training your customer representatives. Strategic, intentional service has the ability to transform an upset caller into a pleased customer, so take steps today to improve your current service strategy. To find out more about how our CSR monitoring and analysis programs would best fit your current business model, contact us today!