How to Handle an Irate Customer on the Phone
One of the most important obligations for any business owner is to ensure
that his customers are satisfied. Often times, that includes talking to a
customer that, for whatever reason, is angry. Being able to help an angry or
frustrated customer, and keep him as a customer, is both a skill and a gift.
Tactics for dealing with an upset customer over the phone is something that can
be taught. Possessing this skill will help make you a very valuable employee.
Here's how to handle an irate customer on the phone.
- Listen, listen, listen. Let the angry client talk through his
problems and get it all out of his system. This step is important because the
more time a customer spends airing his grievances, the more time he has to calm
- Allow the client to express his opinions. Do not yell or curse at the
- Be sympathetic. Make sure the customer knows that you understand his
frustration and acknowledge the mistake that has been made. Recognize the
customer's feelings about the mistake - how it must have felt to be the customer
in this situation.
- Be empathetic. Listen actively. Restate the customer's complaint. That will
let him know you are listening and that you understand his feelings.
- After he completes his story, ask questions about the facts and details of
the matter at hand. Move into problem solution mode -- know when to ask open-
ended questions, when to stick with "yes" or "no" questions.
- If you find that your company is at fault, apologize. Be sure to be sincere.
- Offer to try to fix the problem. Imagine if this was happening to you, and
what you'd want done.
- Ask what will make the client happy. If he is without any ideas, recommend
- Have the client agree to a possible solution to the matter. He will be
happier if he feels he had some say in how his complaint will be handled.
- Always "recap". Restate again every change you've made, and every new
charge/adjustment you've made.
- If the system supports memos, write clear, concise memos. What would *you*
want to find in there if this customer called back?
- After the complaint is handled, follow up and be sure the solution worked.
- Keep a complaint log. If you see the same thing keeps popping up you can
recommend a change in policy that will improve things.
- Don't forget to thank the customer for taking the time to complain and work
on a solution. A complaining customer has done you a favor. He has identified a
problem in your business and he has given you the chance to keep his business.
If you lose a client, you lose both his business, the business he would have
referred to your company and any people he might scare off by word-of-mouth.
- Problem customers can become expensive if they continually make harsh
demands. Keep records of complaints made and determine if you really want to
keep a particular client.
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