by Skip Cohen
My roots in Customer Service go back to when I was a kid helping my grandfather in a little hardware store in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. But my real education in consumer support started with Polaroid's introduction of the SX-70 camera - estimated to be 300% defective with those first ones off the production line. Fortunately for Polaroid back then word was slow to spread, there was no Internet - just phone calls and snail mail.
Having kicked off my first blog post fourteen years ago, while I know I've written about the topic many times in the past, there's no such thing as too many reminders about the importance of dealing with angry customers!
I found a couple of great quotes a while back about angry customers:
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning!”
“Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.”
The reality for many of you is too often completely different. You're afraid of angry customers. I've even heard a few horror stories of photographers going head-to-head in arguments with clients. You'll never win in that kind of battle.
Here are a few tips and suggestions you can use to help learn from angry customers and, at the same time, become your own bomb squad!
Modify the opener any way you want, but the defusing line is: "How can I help?" or another one to use is "Let's see if I can help fix this for you." Your goal is to demonstrate empathy, kick back, be quiet, and listen. (This is where I get to plug in my favorite one-liner: You've got two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk!)
Resolve issues quickly with solutions that have value to the consumer. Come up with a resolution fast and work towards having one that your client feels is fair.
Years ago, living in the Chicago area, we tried carry-out from a new Chinese restaurant. Halfway through dinner, there was a small dead cockroach in the fried rice. I immediately packaged everything back up and went storming back to the restaurant. Instead of immediately apologizing and doing a refund, the owner wanted to give me a gift certificate to come back! Obviously, we never ate there again, but to try and argue with me about the merits of their food at that point was far from realistic.
Remember, one angry customer today can turn into a troll and undermine your credibility throughout the community. And the community, especially in cyberspace, goes far beyond your city limits.
On the other hand, a satisfied customer who feels you've been on their side and working towards solving the problem will help build a foundation for future business.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.