You work in a brick and mortar in retail, a service center, or a not for profit—regardless, an upset customer is in your area. They’re mad, and it looks like you’re going to get the brunt of it. What should you do?

First, Here’s What not to do

There’s an old saying, “You can win the argument and lose a friend.” That’s never truer than when dealing with an upset customer. Attempting to argue, defending your position, or downplaying the customers concern seldom leads to resolution—quite the opposite. Don’t add fuel to their fire by feeding their flame—let it burn out. Defending and arguing only add tender to their fire—you’re feeding right into it, stirring it up, and fanning the flames. Your best strategy may be letting the fire die by letting them get it out of their system. Have you tried to argue with or defend your point to an upset customer—how’d that work for you?

Who IS Right?

There’s another old saying, “The customer’s always right” which is absolutely not true, the customer is often wrong. This might be better said, “The customer should be treated with respect—in their mind they’re right.” Treating your customer with the respect they deserve begins with these four steps.

4 Steps to Working with an Upset Customer

1. Apologize, even if their demands seem unreasonable—apologize. In the least, recognize and apologize for their being upset, “I’m sorry we haven’t met you expectations.” or “I’m sorry; the last thing we wanted was for you to be upset.”

2. Listen, with an open mind, without prejudice, let your customer speak their mind. Don’t interrupt unless it becomes belligerent then call for help.

3. Ask what you can do to make it better and if it’s reasonable do it. “What can we do to make you happy?” or “What can I do to correct this?”

4. If you can’t make the customer happy, turn them over to someone who can. “I want to do what’s best for you let me ask my manager for assistance.” or “I’m not sure I’m qualified – may I ask my team for advice please?”

2 Keys to Making the 4 Steps Work

1. Control your body language—if you present aggressive, dismissive, or defensive body language it may not matter WHAT you say.  Crossed arms are a defensive posture, making fists and leaning forward can be seen as aggression, and turning away, even partially, as dismissive. All will hinder your communication with an upset client.

2. Control your voice. More is communicated through how you say words than the words you say. Maintaining an even steady tone of voice with little emphasis or inflection is the safest route.

You won’t make every customer happy but by following these 4 steps you can help many feel better about their transactions with you. Do you have a policy or system to help upset customers?

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