From angry customer to brand ambassador

5 steps to make angry customers love you

“My husband’s birthday surprise is ruined because of you! You said it would take 5 business days tops to deliver his present, and it’s been two weeks.” Your customer was planning to surprise her husband with his favourite childhood book, ordering it well ahead of time. But you didn’t have that particular book stocked. And - Murphy’s Law – your supplier delayed his delivery as well.

So there you go: the voice on the phone is getting slightly hysterical. How are you going to win back this angry customer? After all, angry customers aren’t indifferent. Show them how much you care by following these five steps.

1 | Acknowledge and apologize

Show empathy for your angry customer’s situation. After all, you’re hoping for some signs of sympathy, too. In the helpful world of customer service, sighs like “it’s not my fault” or “it’s not up to us” just don’t fly. Acknowledge that your customer has every right to be upset. Later on in the process, you can provide an explanation of what happened behind the scenes. The blame game won’t do this tricky situation any good; just acknowledge that you screwed up, period.

Accept your responsibility to deliver what you promised, and apologize. You didn’t mean to screw up, did you? And you’ll be surprised how much of your customer’s fuming anger dissolves the moment you apologize. Be prepared to say sorry on a personal note, even if you have nothing to do with what went wrong. Make your apology real and specific. A standard copy-paste apology does not sound sincere; mention what went wrong exactly and how things should have gone. It doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Customer service never is about pointing fingers. It’s about making your customer happy.

2 | Understand

By this point, the pressure is usually off, allowing you to switch from a passive listener to a proactive problem solver. If you’re on the phone or using live chat to talk to your customer, ask the right questions to understand his or her point of view. Is she going on vacation and needs this product before leaving the country? Is it a birthday present or a mother’s day gift? Listen carefully and really understand what this product means to your customer. Once you get the context, you can do your very best to solve the situation and meet your customer’s needs. You can now guide your customer towards a solution that will suit you both.

3 | Sell the solution

Make your customer an offer s/he can’t refuse. A preventative strike for a negative reaction to a solution is to share several options and sell the best. When you present people with possibilities, it gets them thinking, pulling them out of their automatic “that’s not good enough” response. Even if you would have provided anyone with the same solutions, explaining your reasoning shows you have thought things through and made a genuine effort to solve your customer’s specific issue. That makes a world of difference. Your customer will notice that you have thought things through for them and picked the best solution for them.

4 | Set expectations & commit

Wrap up the solution with setting clear expectations about what will happen, and when. Your customer wants to rest assured the issue will be sorted out now. It helps to show your personal commitment to get there. Make sure that from this point onwards, your customer knows s/he’s in good hands: your hands. You, the person, not Mr Anonymous of The Company. Take ownership of what happened and personally commit yourself to fix things. Show that you are fully engaged in fixing this.

5 | Follow up & surprise

If you’ve fixed it in one go, follow up to make sure everything went as planned. This on its own is a pleasant and unexpected surprise. If you’re still working on a solution, keep in personal touch and show your interest in resolving the situation by updating your customer about what’s happening. At this point, your approach and personal attitude will overcome the initial disappointment and you can start recovering some lost ground…

Now that your customer has lost his initial anger and has received his promised product or service, it’s time to make sure he’ll come back in the future. Surprise your customer with a great compensation or thoughtful gesture.

95% of your angry customers will return if their issue is resolved well and fast. So even if the cost of winning back your customers seems high, remember that it’s actually cheaper to turn an angry customer in a brand ambassador: s/he will kindle priceless enthusiasm in friends and family (and through social media). Basically the question is: do you want to be in ‘customer service’ or go to the next level with customer marketing?

Final 5 step guide

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