Don't follow your "strike back" instincts. If an angry client calls you fuming mad, your knee-jerk reaction might be to argue. Remember, though, fighting anger with anger seldom works. No matter how tough it is, do the opposite of what you feel like doing. Take a deep breath and remain calm. And most of all, diffuse your client's anger by immediately assuring her that you will make it right.
"When faced with difficult situations with clients, instead of giving a reactionary, defensive response, offer solutions," says Kuzmeski. "Your first reaction may be to explain why you are right, why the client is overreacting, or to give her additional information so she can better see the situation from your point of view. However, if you check those reactions and instead start working toward a resolution, your chances of keeping that customer are much greater."
When confronted with an angry client, say something like, "I know we did not satisfy your needs, and I assure you that we will do better in the future. Can I offer you a free gift the next time you stop in, or a discount off your next service?" Your client may still want to fight, but you are dispelling her anger by staying calm and offering a helpful response. Just smile, take responsibility (even if you feel you haven't done anything wrong), and offer solutions. You can't control the way your client is going to act, but you can control your own actions. If you are reasonable, your client will eventually come around.
The solutions you offer may not be exactly what the client wants, but you are trying to smooth things over instead of arguing; therefore, the results will no doubt be better. The legendary retailing genius Marshall Field once overheard a clerk in his store having a discussion with a customer. "What are you doing?" he asked. "I'm settling a complaint," the clerk answered. "No, you're not," said Field. "Give the lady what she wants." We can all learn a thing or two from that.
Get them to listen to you by...listening to them. Customers will listen to what you have to say if you respectfully listen to what they have to say first. Knowing that you are truly listening to their concerns can cause your customers to agree to your suggestions much more quickly.
"Very few people in this world take the time to practice 'Curious Listening,'" says Kuzmeski. "We instead partially listen, get ready to respond, and let our minds drift. But if you can practice Curious Listening, which is a form of active listening, you will differentiate yourself as someone who really cares."
Here are the four steps of Curious Listening:
1. Hear the essence of what your customer is saying by repeating back what you
2. Ask questions so that your customer knows that you are actively seeking to understand why something is important him.
3. Make sure you aren't acting on unsubstantiated assumptions. Confirm with the client that you have correctly understood what he is saying.
4. Listen for the "remarkable." In every conversation you have with a client, he will say something unique and remarkable. If you listen for his "remarkable," you will be able to come back to that later (even in a subsequent conversation) and connect with him on a different level. The "remarkable" may be something as simple as, "I'm thinking about taking an October vacation to Paris," or, "I'm a Packers fan," or, "We just landed our largest client!" The key is remembering it. It shows you are really curious about what happened, how the other person feels, and what resolution was reached.
Have a standard service protocol at the ready. Creating standards, procedures, and methods of dealing with clients and servicing their needs can really help when it comes to resolving conflicts or handling a dissatisfied customer. By creating a service protocol in advance, you provide a way to "enforce" how client conflict situations are handled. This allows you and your employees to more easily resolve issues and deal with those impossibly and consistently difficult clients.
"When developing a service protocol, start by recalling past situations," says Kuzmeski. "Consider how and when a difficult client became difficult. Was a resolution reached? If so, when and how? By examining how difficult clients were handled in the past, taking into account both good and bad examples, you and your staff can begin to set boundaries regarding what is and isn't a proper way to react. Creating a protocol allows you to chart your path to resolution and figure out what you're going to say before a problem arises.