How to tell your customers to 'shut-up' (nicely) and solve their problems

Wednesday 22 May, 2013

You love them, you hate them, and you need them. Customers; they can make your day, boost your businesses' profitability and help positively spread the word of your goods and services. They can also steal your time, your patience and your very enthusiasm for why you even decided to create, manage or help run a business to help these customers in the first place.

Anyone who has worked in customer service knows the different types: The Questioners - the people who call you to ask about one thing and end up speaking to you for another twenty minutes -, The Indecisive Customer '“ the ones who just want you to take over and make all the decisions and then, blame you when you make the wrong decision for them -, and The Plain Rude '“ the people who make your Monday morning go from the inevitably bad to worse. Of course there's more, and not all are terrible, the Loyal Customer, The Cute-Old-Lady Customer, The Customer Who Brings Baked Goods ... too many to list ... however,  at times, their requests, needs and even complaints become too much to handle. Sometimes, all you feel like saying is: 'For the love of God, please, shut up.'?

Clearly, this attitude won't really boost your businesses' 'customer friendly' image. It also won't guarantee that your customers return. I like Judi Moreo's advice on how to deal with these less-valued, valued customers. At OneShift, we do our best to follow her advice:

STEP 1: Have the right attitude: Think of a difficult customer as a challenge. Addressing their problems is the path to winning. Alright, it sounds lame but those who take on this attitude are less likely to take things personally and more likely to find a solution to the problem.  

STEP 2: Let customers vent: Stand there and listen to them, if only for a minute. This allows them to express their feelings (none which are personal) of the problem and to let out their frustration. If you listen, you show that what has happened to them matters to you and to your business. Afterwards, apologize and acknowledge their problem and feelings sincerely. Trust me, this process saves you time in the long run as the customer can see that you are on their 'side'.

STEP 3: Use the 'right' words: Immediately defuse anger by using statements like, 'I can understand how frustrating this might be for you ...' or 'I'm sorry this happened to you ...' and then propose to solve their problem, 'I'm going to see what I can do ...', 'Here's what I can do ...'

STEP 4: Tell the customer what you are going to do: Seek to solve the customers' problems and give them what they need. Tell the customer what course of action you are going to take. Sometimes the customers are a little more unwilling to cooperate. In this instance, put the situation in their hands, 'How would you like this handled?' Or give options by saying such things as, 'Here's what I can do,' or 'There are three ways we can fix your problem. Which of these would you prefer?' Most of the time, they will thank you, even if what you did was very different from their first request.

Step Five: Fix the problem: Take the necessary steps to solve the problem. If it involves another person or department, bring the problem to the attention of the person who can do something about it. If it is something that can not be immediately resolved, be sure to contact the customer and tell him what is happening. You will make the situation worse if you leave him guessing as to what is happening.

Everyone knows the customer isn't always right but, for the majority of the time, we won't let them know that. I think this guide helps staff deal with all customers in a manner which, even where there are problems, encourages them to return to a businesses' services.

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