Successfully handling irate customers and transforming them into happy ones is where the Customer Service Manager (CSM) really earns their stripes.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Angry customers are not always the most rational bunch. Even if you’ve found a quick fix to a problem, an irate customer might not be in the best frame of mind to realize it. And if a customer asks for assistance with a particularly complicated problem, a resolution becomes just that much more difficult. Despite these challenges, it is the responsibility of the CSM to ensure that even the most frustrated and irrational of customers comes away happy.
The stakes here are high. Every customer is valuable and the commitment to their satisfaction is important, in and of itself. It’s also a big picture reality that angry customers are the most likely to be vocal about your product on social media — sometimes to devastating effect. Therefore, minimizing their frustrations is not just about an individual case; a single failure can have far-reaching consequences.
Fortunately, there are a few simple strategies which CSMs can employ to transform irate customers into happy ones.
Remember, This Is Business
This may sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. CSMs operate in a high-pressure world where the stresses involved can be enough to overwhelm anyone. When faced with an irate customer — possibly even an abusive one — it can be difficult to remember that the role of customer support is business, not personal.
Failure to keep this perspective risks injecting emotional dialogue into the conversation. This can lead to inconsistent service - or worse - end in someone saying something they shouldn’t have. Executing a solid customer service strategy requires a cool and professional approach to interaction.
Bottom line, good CSMs (and their teams)must remember not to take things too personally. Given the personal touch that is the hallmark of many good managers, this may sound like a contradiction in terms. But it’s not. Keep in mind, you are completing a business transaction; emotions need to be checked at the door.
Which Is Why You Need a Plan
Almost by definition, successful CSMs tend to be highly empathic. In practice, they aim to action every complaint and find solutions using a personal touch. However, approaching customer service from an emotive standpoint like this makes it more challenging to stay professional.
And when the professional / personal barrier melts away, the result is often poor service.
To keep this barrier up, CSMs must recognize that their department is no different than any other department in a company. The marketing team archetypes customers to better devise plans to serve them; the customer support team is no different.
The best way to do this is to create objective criteria for what makes an “angry” customer and then come up with a plan on how the department will interact with them. A good start is to direct customer service representatives to collect as many relevant facts about their complaint as possible (the proper way to do this depends on a company’s individual factors).
This allows the situation to be framed from an objective, factual standpoint — and has the added benefit of making the customer feel they are being listened to. A rational decision about the best way to proceed based on facts and not emotions can then be made.
Fill In The Cracks With Empathy
Wait, did I just say to check emotions at the door? Not entirely. While the big picture structure and plan needs to be calculated with cool rationality, eliminating the CSM’s natural empathy is not the solution either.
Customers know when they are being treated as a number, and an irate customer who feels that they are being provided a generic solution is more likely to react poorly.
To solve this, CSMs must make a distinction between the stages of communication, and the style of communication. Stages — such as classifying customer archetypes and methods of collecting facts — should be planned and systematic. However, the style of communication — what is said, who says it and how often it is said — is where empathy should shine through.
In other words, planning when to talk so that you can better communicate when you do so, will go a long way towards making irate customers feel like they are being listened to and communicated with effectively.
And who wouldn’t be happy about that?