Columnists Brad Huisken Handling an upset customer

Handling an upset customer

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How do you handle an upset customer?  Not an easy question to answer and one that may depend upon extenuating circumstances.  However, I would say for the most part you should always refer to Customer Service Rule #1 that states, “The customer is always right” and Customer Service Rule #2 that states, “When the customer is wrong, refer to rule #1.”

While you may not believe it was a bad experience, remember that perception is reality in the customer’s mind.  Therefore, I encourage you to do everything within your power to ensure that a customer leaves not only happy, but singing your praises as well.  Ultimately, every time you serve a customer the goal has to be to create a personal trade customer, a repeat customer for the future and one that will readily offer your business as a referral to others.

I believe that the only reason a jewelry store has salespeople, a sales manager, service people, office and finance people, a buyer, an advertising and marketing department, the owner, all the way to the cleaning crew is to produce HAPPY CUSTOMERS.

I feel that for the most part people are genuinely good.  I do not feel that most people are out to take advantage of jewelry retailers.  If the customer believes that they have a legitimate complaint, it is a legitimate complaint.  As I stated earlier this thought is simply based on the theory that perception is reality.

I think it is a common belief that if you upset one customer that person will tell another ten people about the bad experience. In turn those ten people will probably tell another ten people each about the experience. Therefore, one upset customer may cost you well over one hundred potential customers. Losing over one hundred potential customers is way too large a price to pay for not taking care of the customer who had a bad experience. On the other hand if you have ten people that are upset with you for one reason or another only one out of every ten will actually come back and give you a chance to resolve the situation.

I have seen situations where the salesperson or store employee says something that makes the customer feel like they have to defend themselves. Saying something like “That’s not the way you bought this piece,” “It is obvious that you are very rough on your jewelry,” or “That isn’t covered by the manufacturer’s warranty,”  causes the customer to become defensive. The salesperson took a bad situation and potentially made it worse than it needed to be.

I have found that the easiest way to handle an upset customer is to let them know that you want to take care of the situation. Never make remarks that may make your customer feel defensive. If the customer happens to be in the middle of the sales floor causing a scene or within voice range of other customers, I would lead the customer back to a quiet area of the store or into a private room if available. While walking the customer to the private area let them know that you genuinely want to make sure the situation is taken care of. In the beginning I would always ask the customer a question that will let them know that you care and that you will do your best to resolve the situation.

The question is:

“What can we do to make this right for you?”

In many cases by simply asking this question the answer may be less than you thought you would have to give. Should the customer ask for more than you are able to give, then at the very least you have a starting point to begin the negotiations and take care of the situation.

Your job as a salesperson is to represent the customer to the company and not the company to the customer. In other words, do not defend the company, the product or the vendor. Represent the customer in making sure that they are happy with their purchase.

Most bad situations are easy enough to turn around so that the customer is actually delighted with how the situation was resolved. Should this be the case and the customer is out in the world singing your praises, it was worth the price. If you had to give a little more than what you thought you should have, then write it off to your advertising budget, because that is what it is. A happy customer that tells their friends and relatives about the superb customer service that they received is far more valuable than a customer telling people about their bad experience. Harvey McKay states that it costs, on average, $5000 to get a new customer, do not waste your money in getting rid of the customers that you already have!

The following are a few things to think about in dealing with upset or angry customers.

  1. Don’t take anything the customer says personally, we are all guilty of saying things that we don’t mean in the heat of anger.
  2. If the customer is verbally attacking, let them know you are going to resolve the situation but will not tolerate obscene or abusive language.
  3. Learn from the experience in order to avoid the same situation happening again.
  4. Set the tone for the conversation by being friendly, empathetic, smiling, and professional.
  5. Don’t place the blame on the customer.  They may need someone to blame and it might be you, again don’t take it personally.
  6. Let them know that you’re going to do what you think is right no matter how upset they get.
  7. Maintain a passive tone of voice and positive body language.
  8. Maintain eye contact - it shows you’re interested and concerned.
  9. Remove the upset customer from the sales floor if possible.  You don’t want other customers hearing the conversation.
  10. Don’t tell the customer everything that you cannot do.  Frankly, they don’t care what you can’t do, only what you can do.
  11. Don’t defend the company’s policies.  If you are not empowered to make a final decision, have someone who can resolve the situation handle the customer.
  12. Don’t make excuses – the customer is looking for answers.
  13. Remember the Golden Rule – treat people, as you want to be treated.
  14. In some cases, your negotiating skills may come into play.  In other words, don’t give up the farm too fast.
  15. Ask the question “What can we do to make this right for you?” and start the negotiation from that point.

Remember the cost to get a new customer is tremendous.  The cost of losing an upset customer that tells others about the experience is far too expensive a price to pay.  Treat the upset customer right and you may be able to turn them into a customer that proactively gives you referrals and recommends you to others.

Visit www.iastraining.com to subscribe to Brad Huisken’s free weekly newsletter called “Sales Insight”, or for any of his training programs. To contact IAS Training directly call 800-248-7703 or fax 303-936-9581.
 
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