Every business…. brick and mortar…online…large or small thrives on the interactions and “feelings” of its customer experience. A good experience brings brags and “testimonials” of how enjoyable the experience was, and how they’d recommend it. A bad one leads to bad reviews and can hurt your bottom line. Great customer experiences should be the goal. With that in mind, how do you handle, when your customer is angry or upset with you?
Let me share a story with you from my week. One of my kids in is college. The way they determine dorm housing is by averaging the hours of everything within a suite (or room) and give priority in the order of highest to lowest hours average. Well.. my kid got stuck in a really bad dorm because one of her “roommates” has so few hours. Knowing what that dorm is like, I was not a happy parent. So, I called and talked to the head of housing. She couldn’t help much… it’s policy, blah blah, blah… but she was nice, listened to my frustrations and all in all we had an ok interaction. I asked to talk to her boss. No problem, she gave me his information and told me he wouldn’t be able to talk until the next day. Ok… it doesn’t make me happy, but I’ll survive. So, I left a message. When he finally called me the next day, I was very frustrated…. And I told him so. But as I was explaining my frustration and how I didn’t agree with the way they handled things, he kept interrupting me and arguing with pretty much any and everything I had to say. He was so argumentative and interrupting that it got to the point where I felt as if I would have to speak louder to be heard over his comments. His condescending and argumentative attitude escalated my anger and frustration. Am I proud of this? No. However, that isn’t my point. My point is this: Had he simply given me the time and space to tell him my frustrations, feel as if my complaints were heard and express my concern our interaction would have been a more positive one. Instead, I left feeling as if I had been treated like a 2-year old that knows nothing. What did he gain from arguing? Nothing. Or, at the very least, all his arguing gained was an unhappy “customer.”
The lesson? Frustrated / unhappy customers usually just want to feel as if they are heard. You’d be amazed at what can happen when you just shut your mouth and actively listen. Is it fun if they’re yelling or taking out their frustrations on you? No. It’s not. But, you have a choice. You can exacerbate their frustration by contradicting and arguing with them, or you can try to get to the root of their frustration.
Let me give you another example. I own some rentals for investment purposes. One of which is a short-term rental. A guest texted to express their frustration with several problems where they were staying. I could have argued with our guest and said that the issues didn’t exist (one didn’t, because of the quirks in the old house). Did I? No, I merely let them complain, said I’m so sorry to hear that, and I’ll come over as soon as I can to fix what I can. We went by… fixed what we could. What was the result? A happy guest that left us a glowing review.
What’s the takeaway? Your staff should listen, even when the person on the other side of the conversation is very unhappy. Listen, even when the person on the other side of the discussion is wrong. Just listen.
Why? It is good business practice. You have to go into these conversations checking your pride at the door because you don’t know the frustrations the person on the other end is going through. You don’t know how their week has been, how their month has been or what they’re dealing with. You don’t know what curveballs life has thrown them. Or even how their day leading up to the conversation has been. These frustrations and outside elements that have nothing to do with your business can bleed into their attitude.
The end goal? Resolve any issues, if at all possible. And, always, always, always, let your customer feel as if their frustrations were heard. Even if the problem is one that can’t be resolved, listening can go a long way in making your customer happy. And, customers that have issues that are immediately addressed and resolved can often be some of your best and brightest fans.
Action: Listen even when its hard.
Final Thought: What little things can you do to make your customer experience better?
Tags: business, customer services, value, listening