Can your team manage your customers’ frustrations?

We all want to please our customers and be their first choice always: we coach our teams on building rapport, getting to know them individually, tailoring our message to their specific needs, finding the right product/service to fulfill their needs, going the extra mile to make them feel special. And even doing all this, some times, it does not go exactly the way we expect and our customer comes back with an issue, lots of frustration and disappointment.

That might be (unfortunately) more common that we realize and we feel the need to coach our associates and peers to give first time resolution – we don’t really want (or need) our customer to come 3 times with the same issue because we were not able to resolve it.The fact is that it might not be so easy to solve the issue in the first attempt and it might take more effort that some of us were willing to make. And that is the beginning of our real problem.

In the perfect world all of our associates would absolutely love their jobs and be committed to be extraordinary, and our customers would be the happiest ever!

Well, we do not live in the perfect world, so we have to coach, to help our associates to promote that outstanding customer experience so we can get ahead of our competition and captivate a very loyal clientele.

Understanding the process (the customer + the issue) can position your team in a vantage point and allow them to resolve the issue once for all and manage your customers frustrations successfully. What your associates should master:

1- Listen to your customer: when customers comes back with an issue, they usually are already upset, unhappy and some quite fired up. They might even feel hurt because they trusted you (and your company) to sell them the right product or to provide them an effective service and somehow you failed – or at least that’s how they see it. It is almost as if you have to help them to start a “healing” process by fixing the matter, and that starts with talking, conveying their frustration and disappointment, venting. No matter how you call it, they have to speak up. And you must listen: at this point, it is not a discussion (because it will become an argument), you are not touching basis or giving your opinion. You must listen. And that will, not only provide certain relief to the customers by making them feel that you care, but will give you the chance to understand the actual cause of the frustration and disappointment – you will realize that many the customers might not really know what did upset them so much…, and if you understand them, your chances of coming up with the solution are much higher.

2- Be sympathetic and genuinely caring. When the customers feel that you really care and is willing to help them, they usually put their guard down, lower that wall that they built between the two of you. Give them signs of your sympathy: say things that comfort them (as simple as “I understand why you feel upset and will do everything in my power to solve it”), nod showing that you agree with one point or another, try to “relate” to the frustration they are feeling. No, I am not saying that you have to do whatever they want, but to show them that you are willing to try all you can.

3- Don’t be confrontational. That never really works. Even if you do not agree with them or cannot give them all they want, go the extra mile to do the best you can. Never cut them when they are speaking or be loud or make faces that show disbelief in what they are saying.

4- Ask them what they expect you to do, or how they expect you to solve the issue – some times they do not expect anything miraculous and you can solve it quite easily. If, on the other hand they expect a miracle, you can calmly explain why you cannot  do it that way and give them an alternative.

5- Prepare to be creative and accommodating. It sounds difficult to put these two things together but with a little bit of effort, you might surprise yourself! When you understand the customers’ frustrations it is easier to accommodate their needs: the cake for tonight’s party won’t be ready at the time you promised to your customer? They just need to have the cake there…deliver it! the decor came in the wrong color? Offer to add some details around the party so it will look nice!

6- Make sure you know all your possibilities and come up with plan B and C…just in case plan A does not work.

7- Follow up and thank the customer: the vast majority of times, we solve the problem the best way we can and that’s it – we consider our jobs done. Prove that you really want them as customers and follow-up: send them a thank you card and tell them how grateful you are because they were so understanding; if the issue was more serious, add a gift card to your thank you note and invite them to come back. Give them a call a few days after and ask if the solution was effective, if it is working out. Ask for feedback – you want to know from them how to be better next time!

I do not know if “the customer is always right”, but all customers deserve to get what they were promised, to have a great experience and to feel valued: that is the reason why they trust you, why they choose you and ultimately the reason why they will come back.


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