Whether it’s by upsetting your staff on phone calls, putting up bad reviews online, or telling their friends about their negative experiences with your product, certain customers present a problem that your sales team will have to solve. Dealing with such customers can be difficult, but the cost of doing nothing is high.
According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, those who feel a company has done them wrong will usually tell at least nine people, with about one in seven telling more than 20 people. Though some difficult customers cannot be pleased, there are some steps to take when on a call with such a customer that can mitigate the fallout or even improve the relationship.
Let them wear themselves out.
Though this can be stressful, especially if a customer begins shouting, swearing, or otherwise becoming hostile, let the customer vent their frustration or sadness. Avoid taking anything the customer says personally, unless it is directed at you. More often, the customer simply wants to feel as though someone is listening to their complaints. Active listening skills should come into play here, as well. Try to nod, acknowledge statements verbally, or otherwise indicate that the customer’s complaints have been heard. Don’t interrupt with more than a brief acknowledgement, however.
Solve the problem, or at least address it.
In “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner, the author indicates that it takes an average of 12 positive experiences to mitigate the effects of a single unresolved negative experience. Accordingly, when dealing with a customer who feels that something has gone wrong, it is essential to somehow address the problem itself. Whether it’s through replacement of a product, offering an additional service, or simply a direct, sincere apology, something has to be done about the customer’s actual grievances.
Make sure the customer is on the right track.
Some problems customers get upset over can be solved by suggesting they use a different product or service you offer. Don’t go to this right away if it involves selling the customer a more expensive product, but consider whether the customer might need a different version of the service, or a different product entirely. If the customer has purchased the wrong level of service by mistake, explain this as gently and clearly as possible.
Keep track of the situation.
Even if the initial situation that caused the problem is over, caring for a difficult customer in the long term can help keep that customer happy, and even lead to a stronger relationship. Keep track of the issues your customers have using the technology available, and make sure to avoid causing similar problems in the future. Archive email chains and ensure that whoever handles this customer each time is familiar with the history of the customer’s issues. When it comes to dealing with a difficult customer in the long term, customer relationship management software can really shine.
It’s as true with current customers as with new leads, and even more important if the customer who feels wronged does a great deal of business with the company. A few days after the product arrives or the service is completed, call the customer again and make sure that everything was sufficiently satisfying. While this can seem excessive at first glance, it reminds customers that regardless of any earlier issues, their business is valuable to your company, and your team will continue to ensure that they are satisfied.
Sometimes, a relationship has to end.
Though this is a last resort, sometimes a customer can be more trouble than the effort necessary to keep doing business. When terminating a relationship, continue to be civil. Express that this is strictly a business relationship, and wish the customer well. For the sake of good business as well as potential liability, make sure to complete any current requests or contracts before terminating the relationship.
Take the time to assess how this happened.
Sometimes, problem customers are just looking for something to be mad at, but sometimes some component of your business practices is to blame. CRM software can help here, too, as it can provide a record of past interactions with the customer, and allows you to pinpoint where things most likely went wrong.
What do you think?
Tell us about your experiences with problem customers in the comments. Whether you’ve got a success story where the relationship totally turned around, or a cautionary tale, we’d love to hear and learn from you.