What do you when you have an upset customer? Show empathy and listen.
8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Being in business and handling all that comes with it to ensure your product’s services are doing what you promise to your customers, you will sometimes encounter unsatisfied customers. How do you currently handle them? How have you set up training or modified it now with the remote ways business is being handled during the pandemic and your adjustments for moving forward? Having an upset customer is not always a bad situation to find yourself in. They may have identified a gap in your process or service that they are looking to provide insight to by voicing their disappointment. When they choose to be vocal about it is a great way to show them the true pedigree of your company and how you handle all circumstances with your customers. An upset customer who has taken the time to speak, call or email you about a problem is looking for an immediate resolution or to see a process change implemented to benefit not only themselves but others in the future as well. One of the best things you can do is listen to them, show empathy and really hear what caused the issue. There are three steps you can take to show empathy in your actions, and then execute on them, although I am sometimes amazed at the level in which some firms show a blantant disregard for the care of their customers when they have issues.
Provide a contact line or email for voicing concerns – provide an executive member’s contact or owner’s email
Depending on the levels of communication in your firm for processing or handling unsatisfied customers, you should provide a direct avenue for them to reach your firm about complaints. The customer is wanting a way to be heard and validated for the time and effort spent to buy from you and an expectation was not met. Many firms do provide a general email, but then get bounced around until the customer becomes fully irate about the issue not being solved. Consider providing a high ranking executive’s email or contact information for a designee who has the power to override any issue once hearing the story behind the complaint. Providing an executive member’s email or your CEO’s email demonstrates that you are geninuely vested in hearing their concern and providing assistance. Most customers would follow the normal procedures to voice a complaint knowing that if they are not satisfied they can email someone at your top level who is willing to listen and engage. Some complaints may not be resolved after following this path but to have given a customer all options in being heard can help lessen any frustrations once there is an understanding to the specific situation. It should not be that diffcult for a customer to reach an executive team member if they are unable to get their issue resolved – always have a team member in a high position available to resolve an issue once it has truly escalated.
Listen to them – really listen
This seems like common sense to say but very often staff members may not be trained properly on how to show empathy and lend an active listening ear when a customer is voicing an issue. Training focused on empathy, product offerings and polices along with knowing when to apply them to a customer’s situation should be a key factor of your company training and not just in customer service. Oftentimes firms treat customers who complain as if they are the issue, after the customer has bought their product, and have no interest in hearing a valid complaint. It would be a prudent action to take a sincere interest when someone has a problem. Hear what they are having an issue with. If it is the product, did you miss a time line that caused a second issue that you are now in position to offer help with even if it is not in your line of work? For example, you are a flower shop where a customer ordered flowers online for an ill family member and the delivery driver went to the wrong location. The irate customer calls, saying the intended recipient is obviously not at that location but another. Do you listen to hear how you can not only send what they originally requested but also how you can now add value for the person who was set to receive the items because of a missed opportunity. What happens if you are the owner and discover that your staff was rude to the customer? Does the customer have the ability to email you directly so you can address the issue, evaluate it, and provide a resolution?
What will you do to allow your customers to have a direct line into a level above the standard customer service channel into your business? Are they going to have to wait five levels of a chain of command to get to the right person or will you shorten that time and give them the opportunity to have direct access to someone who is empathic and with enough power in your firm to fix issues that were handled improperly, all while keeping costs and the specific situation in mind. Be mindful of the pandemic having also added levels of frustration they may be carrying that go beyond normal circumstances, and this may be your chance to add some brightness to their lives, despite them not being pleased with their current situation having ordered from you.
Offer a way for them to suggest changes to any gaps in service
After hearing what their issue is, and you see a path forward on how you can help them, ask to provide their feedback and stay in touch with them, if it is an implementation you can effectively execute. You may not be able to do this for every customer that has an issue and reserve the effort for when it presents itself as a gap in your product quality or service. It would be wise to keep their contact info so that if you have numerous complaints about similar issues, you can contact these customers telling them how you are changing or have changed and thank them for their feedback. Most customers want a good product, service and to be heard knowing they are valued by your company, no matter how small their order may be. Be genuine in your desire to resolve an issue, and not just provide standard responses with no action. When it’s authentic, this effort works, and has a better chance of resonating positively in a situation where the lasting impression is of the original exchange having not been done correctly.
Showing care and concern for all your customers’ current and potential matters is a mandate, but extra effort may be justified more for someone who is upset than just those who continue to be loyal customers. Be authentic and act with good intentions, as it will allow for a better methodology for how you handle these situations because you are seeking to address each based on the circumstances. This is why having a top line executive’s email or contact information could be beneficial to help resolve any lingering frustrations. Most customers are not aware of all that goes into your product or service. When you allow them to offer their suggestions, and have an honest two-way conversation about how you are currently doing business, it can build common ground, and provide an understanding that the customer has been heard, you are working on their issue, and open to review and implement any additional suggestions.
Listen and show empathy to your customer base, whether they are satisfied or not, and they may continue to provide actionable intel to you because they know you geniunely care about them, your business, and what you are providing.