A Proven Process for Turning Angry Customers into Advocates

dealing with angry customers

In my last post, I discussed customer service and how the first five seconds of a call can make or break a customer’s impression of your company. But how should you handle a customer who’s already upset?

Customers get angry because their expectations haven’t been met on some level. Let’s look at an example from a furniture company. A salesperson develops a great rapport with a couple, identifies their needs, and sells them a sofa.

When the sofa is delivered, the delivery crew forgets to put on their Tyvek booties, and tracks dirt on the couple’s carpet. Even though the salesperson met the couple’s expectations for the product, the company as a whole didn’t meet expectations, and now the company has a very dissatisfied customer.

So, what can you do in a situation like this, where the damage has been done and the customer is angry? Follow this process for dealing with angry customers and turning them into advocates for your company.

Start by asking yourself the following questions.

  • Do my company’s marketing messages set realistic customer expectations?
  • Does our sales approach align with our marketing messages?
  • Does our company’s customer service approach match the sales approach?

If your messages don’t align, your customers’ expectations will be skewed. When a salesperson oversells the product and a delivery person underperforms, angry customers are an inevitable response.

Let the customer cool down.

Always – ALWAYS – let the customer vent, and be willing to listen to their story.

When you’re working out and expending energy, it’s important to cool down afterwards. The same applies to an unsatisfied customer. Let the customer vent and reach a cool-down point, just as you would during a physical workout. You can’t explore options until the customer has finished venting.

Don’t point fingers.

It happens all the time in the wireless business. Joe, a customer, complains that his phone doesn’t work, and it’s obvious the phone has gotten wet. An inexperienced salesperson might say, “Joe, you got your phone wet, and it’s not covered by your warranty. You have to buy another phone.”

Big mistake. The proper way to deal with Joe is to repeat his problem so he understands that you understand, even if you have bad news. The best response to Joe is, “I wonder what happened? You came to the right place. Let me talk to a technician and we’ll take a look.”

When you return to the customer, say, “Joe, it looks as though somehow the phone has gotten wet.” Then, proceed to the Feel-Felt-Found response.

Use the Feel-Felt-Found method.

After you’ve identified the problem (without placing blame), the Feel-Felt-Found response is an effective way of sympathizing with Joe and presenting his options. Your script might be: “I am so sorry this happened to you. I would have felt the same way, and in fact, the same thing has happened to me. But what I found was (fill in the blank with an option you can offer to Joe).”

There are always options – even if it means canceling a service. If Joe is going to be unhappy and talk about his experience, it’s sometimes best for both parties to end the contract amicably. But listening and being polite go a long way toward resolving issues and turning angry customers like Joe into advocates.