How to respond to an angry customer

How to respond to an angry customer

Is the customer always right?

In many cases, no.

But if you try to explain, even courteously, why your company is right and the customer is wrong, you can lose a customer forever.

Not only that, you might motivate the customer to go online and post negative reviews about your company.

Here are seven steps you should take when dealing with a consumer or business customer who is upset with your company.

  1. Research what caused the customer to become upset

    Find out what happened by talking to everyone involved. Start with the people at your company, including your employees, contractors and suppliers.

    Let your people see the letter or email your customer sent, or write up a synopsis of your phone call with the customer.

    At this point, don’t make this a blame game. Just confirm with your people if what the customer is saying is true. This will help you find out what really happened, including a timeline. Look for a paper trail.

    Find out if there is any history with this customer, who may be making a habit of trying to get out of paying for items or services received.

    If the issue is a personal problem, such as a customer being upset after a confrontation with one of your employees, this can be tricky. If you try to keep the customer happy by agreeing with them, you might lose that employee and create morale problems with the rest of your staff.

    Customer service employees are often personally abused by clients, even when they haven’t done anything wrong. This can lead to high staff turnover, so handle these types of situations carefully.

    Once you’ve talked to your people, contact the customer for any extra information you need, which might include an invoice, email or order number. Contact your customer by email at this point to avoid an emotional conversation and pressure from the customer to get a resolution now.

  2. Find out who is at fault

    Once you’ve researched the incident, find out who is at fault. Start by determining whether it’s your company or the customer. If your company is to blame, find out who made the error.

    This is not so you can point the finger at someone, but so that you can tell the customer you’ve pinpointed the problem and are taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This is a key part of building strong customer relationships.

    If the issue is a personal, employee-to-customer problem, see if you can get the employee involved. Ask if they want to talk to the customer or send an email.

    If you’re having a problem with a business customer and you find the client made the mistake, determine which of its employees is responsible. Once again, you’re not trying to get out of fixing things by blaming Bob or Mary at your customer’s company. You’re trying to fix the situation going forward. You may also have to work with Bob or Mary at that company in the future and you don’t want them angry with you.

  3. Figure out the make good cost

    Determine what it will cost you to give the customer what they want, even if the problem was not your fault. This will help you decide whether it makes sense to take a one-time loss to keep a highly profitable customer happy.

  4. Rate the customer’s value to your business

    Look at this customer’s history with your company. Do they pay their bills on time? Are they a big account? Do they send you lots of referrals? Are they an important source of commissions for one of your sales reps?

    Estimate the potential long-term cost of losing the customer. Take into account that this customer might go online and write one or more bad reviews of your business.

    Compare the loss of this customer and potential damage they can do to your reputation to the make-good expense you determined it will cost to settle this incident.

  5. Organize the content of your incident follow-up letter or email

    Once you’ve decided to either accept the customer’s complaint or tell them your company has not done anything wrong, decide what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.

    Start by re-stating the customer’s problem so they know you understand exactly what they have asked of you.

    “Dear Mr. Smith,

    I understand you believe you were overbilled $75 for the widgets we sent you on April 19th.”

    Next, tell the customer what your research about the incident found. Explain the cause of the issue without assigning blame to anyone.

    Offer some explanations about why you think the situation happened and how it can be avoided in the future. Don’t simply say, “Bob did it.”

    Try to minimize bad news and blame. People make mistakes. If your customer is at fault, let them know you understand how the problem could have occurred instead of saying, “You’re at fault.”

  6. Offer a win-win situation

    If the customer is angry because of a problem you caused, don’t just replace the item or reimburse the overcharge. Offer to give the customer something extra, such as a discount on the purchase in question, free shipping or a coupon worth $X on a future order.

    Let the customer know you have instituted a procedure to make sure the error does not happen again.

    If the customer is at fault, offer to fix the problem and only charge them your cost.

  7. Decide when to cut your losses

    If an angry customer is asking too much, is likely to be a difficult customer in the future and probably won’t do much damage to your reputation, cut your losses.

    Let the customer know you understand their concern, explain what happened based on your research and end the conversation there.

    Be positive and tell them you hope to continue doing business with them, but be prepared to have the customer leave if you do not give them what they want.