The #1 Secret to Turning Upset Customers into Raving Fans

 In Blog, Effective Dialogue

(Time to read: ~3 minutes)

I’m always surprised when it happens. I call for help because something has gone wrong with some big organization’s systems.

“Hello, I’m trying to cancel my account. One of your colleagues sent me a link that I’m supposed to use to do that.

But when I try to log in with the information that my online password manager stored for me (so there’s no possibility of my having made a typo), your system says ‘Login failed’. What do I need to do?”

“Well, if you don’t know your login or password, you just need to do X and Y and Z.”

Did you notice? He didn’t hear me. I didn’t say that I didn’t know my login or password, I said their system didn’t recognize the login or password I entered.

On top of that, he’s telling me that because their system doesn’t recognize the information I entered, I have to spend another 1/2 an hour executing multiple steps over the next 2-3 days to prevent them from merrily charging my credit card every month for a service that I don’t want.

The Funny Part

So I’m annoyed – no surprise there. The surprise is that the customer support person gets annoyed that I’m annoyed, and essentially tells me that I shouldn’t be annoyed. Which, naturally, makes me more annoyed.

The funniest part of all is when I finish the call with him, the system asks me whether I will be recommending their company to my colleagues and friends.

Guess what my answer is?

The Simple #1 Secret of Customer Service

If a customer is upset, empathize with them!

For example:

  1. “Oh, I’m so sorry, that must be so frustrating for you!”
    (pause to let the customer say whatever they need to say – so they have the space to hear what else you have to tell them)
  2. “I wish I could help you with that…” (pause to really let that land)
  3. “Unfortunately I don’t have access to that information.”
  4. “What I can do is give you the contact information of the department that can sort this out.
  5. “Will that work for you?”

Why ask if that will work for them – if there’s nothing else you can do?

Every time a customer calls feeling upset about something, your organization has a very special opportunity.

You have the opportunity to transform their upset into pleasure.

People don’t forget experiences like that. That kind of shift has a very powerful impact on someone’s nervous system. More powerful than an experience that is consistently positive.

But you only get that payoff if the person feels happy when they get off the phone (or chat) with your organization.

Make sure they get the empathy they need from you

If they leave the interaction still feeling upset, they are going to look for empathy from someone else.

As they describe their “negative” experience to that other person, you’ve now got two people who are upset with your organization.

Also, most people don’t talk about these kinds of experiences with just one person – they keep on talking about it to anyone who will listen.

And each of those people is likely to talk about it to still more people. “Did you hear what happened to George? Isn’t that awful?”

Human nature being what it is, the story probably gets more and more awful with each telling.

So find out if they’re satisfied before you let them go

… using the live person they’ve been interacting with – not an automated survey!

And if they’re not happy, keep empathizing with them until they are – or at least until they calm down.

You’ll probably be surprised at how little time it takes – when it’s done right.

End with positive connection

Most people feel somewhat embarrassed at getting upset with someone – especially when that person doesn’t get upset back.

You don’t want your customer leaving the call feeling that way.

So it’s really important for your team member to end the call by expressing sincere, positive appreciation to the customer for their patience and support in dealing with the issue.

So your customer leaves the call feeling like a hero, not a jerk.





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