Have you ever had to deal with an angry customer? Someone who was not just annoyed, or a little upset, but ANGRY? I’ve had clients get emotional and irate for many reasons. Most of the time, their issues have nothing to do with me as a person, but more to do with the message I’m relaying from the company. Sorry, the system has a bug and it will not be fixed today. Sorry, our product does not service that area. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Even when you tell the client the information in the most positive and polite way possible, it doesn’t always go over well. Your product/service is not meeting their expectation and it is inconveniencing your client. They are angry.
When clients get emotional or upset, how do you handle the situation? Your business relationship is in jeopardy. It is your job to help relieve the stress caused by the situation. With the steps below you can ensure that after the incident, your partnership with the client is not completely tarnished.
Prepare for the conversation
If you know the client will be unhappy with the information you have to share, prepare bullets points or a script before the meeting. Role play with your team or a trusted friend. Have answers prepared for a few possible questions they might have. The more prepared you are, the more your client will feel confidant that you have thought through the issue and understand the consequences for them. Provide workarounds or suggestions on how they can manage the issue.
Be a calming voice in the storm
The client is ANGRY! They do not need you to yell or get angry. They need someone who is calm and can take charge of the situation. They need to know that you will help them find a solution. Be the calming guide they need to work through the issue.
Listen to their frustrations and concerns. Actively listen to the client and give them the opportunity to vent and explain their issues. Clients typically feel calmer and better about the situation when they believe someone understands why they are upset. Repeat back the key points and issues that reviewed and discuss how you will address the concerns.
Apologize (if necessary)
Sometimes just saying “I’m sorry” can move mountains. Clients need to know you understand they have been inconvenienced and put in a bind. Sometimes they need to hear an apology from someone to save the relationship. More than verbally apologizing, show you and the company are sorry by working hard to fix the issue.
Understand they are not angry with you
Don’t take your clients’ frustrations personally. Especially if you are not the reason they are upset. You are just the messenger, or the person they could get in contact with quickly. They need to vent, be heard and hear some quick solutions. Resist having a defensive rebuttal or reaction.
Fix the problem
Fix the issue. If you have the ability to fix the problem, do it immediately. Listening, apologizing and understanding is just the first step, but this is not going to solve their issues. If you do not have the ability to fix the issue, give the client a timeline of when the project can be completed and provide realistic expectations on the solutions you can provide. Saying you can solve the issue just to pacify the client will end up hurting your relationship with the customer in the long run. Tell the truth about what you can and can not do. Sticking to your word and providing a solution in a timely manner will help restore trust.
Have you worked with ANGRY customers? How did you manage this difficult situation?