No matter how great your customer service is, there will always be challenging situations that arise. It’s just a part of running any kind of business. You need to be prepared so that you know how to deal with these situations before they occur. They should never be dealt with on-the-fly.
Challenging situations could involve a problem with your product. Maybe the customer believes it’s not what they ordered. The speed of delivery may have been too slow for them. They may not have understood your service or read your policies beforehand. Maybe they were shuffled from one person to another and they feel like you don’t care.
All kinds of things can cause challenging situations with customers, but the fundamental steps in handling them are basically the same.
Start by hearing them out. Take note of important details. This is important not only for getting the situation resolved, but also for making the customer calm down and feel better. At the beginning of the interaction, the customer wants to know that someone from the company is listening to them. If they feel that you’re responsive, this will often take away their initial anger and frustration.
Let them know that you empathize with their situation. You’ve been there before, so put yourself in their shoes. Tell them something like, ‘I can tell you’re frustrated. Let’s work this out.’ This shows that you understand their feelings. Apologize but don’t become defensive or overly apologetic.
Never assume. Always ask the questions you need to clarify the situation. What do you need to know in order to resolve the problem at hand? Again, this also shows that you’ve been listening and you’re concerned enough to learn more (as well as create a solution for the customer).
Take notes during your interaction and read back over the pertinent details to the customer to make sure you have everything correct. There could be an important detail that you’ve missed. You also need to confirm the customer’s side of things. Say to them, ‘Let me see if I understand everything clearly…’
Now’s the time to fix the customer’s problem. Hopefully, you already have a clearly outlined protocol for dealing with it. If there isn’t, improvise a solution to the problem based on your principles of customer service. If the order didn’t come, get it to them. If the customer got the wrong item, give them instructions and details regarding the refund. See it through to the end until your customer is satisfied.
Confirm that you’ve solved the problem for the customer. Ask them something like, ‘Did that do the trick?’ or, ‘How does that sound?’ You need to ask this because some people won’t tell you if they’re still not happy, and you don’t want them to go away disgruntled with the interaction. Ask them also, ‘Can I help you with anything else?’
All of this type of customer service can be done via email as well as over the phone or in person, but it’s much harder to do electronically. With email, it’s easier for the customer to get frustrated. For this reason, you should be especially polite and friendly in your email correspondences. Let customers know when you’ll be replying and what you’re doing in between email interactions. Make your customer management as personal as possible.
Think of a challenging customer service situation you’ve faced, whether as a customer or as the person handling the situation.
From the customer service reps position, what would you say or do to handle it?