Customers get rude or angry for a variety of reasons—some justified, some not. But since you’re in business to serve your customers, you’ll likely encounter rude or angry individuals at one time or another. How you respond can make the difference between a customer who feels satisfied with the resolution and one who vows never to patronize your business again.
Here are tips for coping with a tense situation and hopefully resolving it to everyone’s satisfaction:
Remain calm. When a customer starts yelling at you or being otherwise rude, there’s nothing to be gained by responding in a similar manner. In fact, that will probably escalate hostilities. Maintain control of yourself, even if the customer’s tirade makes you feeling like yelling yourself.
Don’t take it personally. Remember, the customer isn’t angry with you. They are displeased with the performance of your product or the quality of the service you provide. Your personal feelings are beside the point.
Use your best listening skills. The first thing an angry customer wants is to vent. To do so, they need someone to listen—and, for better or worse, you are that person. Listening patiently can defuse a situation, as long as the customer feels acknowledged in his or her complaint. Hear them out. When they’re done talking, summarize what you’ve heard and ask any questions to further clarify their complaint.
Body language can be critically important here. Keep eye contact. Stand or sit up straight. Keep your arms uncrossed. Show how closely you’re paying attention to their problem.
Actively sympathize. After the customer vents, he wants to know you understand where he’s coming from and how he or she feels. Express sympathy for their unpleasant customer experience. Respect and understanding go a long way toward smoothing things over.
Apologize gracefully. Whether the customer’s complaint is legitimate or not is really irrelevant. If you want her to stay a customer, you need to express an apology for the problem they’re having (or perceive to be having). A simple, straightforward statement is often all that’s needed: “I’m sorry you’re not happy with our product. Let’s see what we can do to make things right.”
Find a solution. Once you get why the customer is unhappy, it’s time to offer a solution. Ask him what he feels should be done or put forward your own fair and realistic answer to the problem. In most cases, that’s all the customer is looking for—and may result in providing some degree of satisfaction.
Take a few minutes on your own. After the situation has been resolved and the customer is on her way, it’s helpful for you to take your own “time-out.” Even if you’ve handled the situation in the most professional way possible, it’s still a stressful experience. Rather than let that stress linger inside you, take a short walk, treat yourself to a snack or find someone to talk to who makes you laugh. Then you’ll be ready to once again engage with your customers.