Apprehensive, Sharon calls her customer, “Hello John, I got your email.”
John quickly responds, “Yea, I am frustrated with the janitorial. Companies like yours over promise and under deliver. In fact, your service is ridiculous! I want out of the contract.”
Sharon responds, “Wait a minute, John, we have come through for you many times before…”
Screech…stop right there! Have you ever experienced a scenario similar to Sharon? You know, where you’ve just been lambasted by a customer. It’s not a pleasant experience, but you can turn it around.
It doesn’t matter who the customer is or what service you offer. How you respond to a complaint can either increase hostility or turn the situation into a positive experience. Of customers who take the time to complain, 70% will come back again if their complaint is resolved properly. The operative word there is “properly.”
Sharon’s response starts off reactive and defensive—not exactly a rock-star performance. With this approach, she is more likely to lose ground than gain it. With angry customers, it is important to remember this couplet, “A customer convinced against her will is of the same opinion still.” In short, never argue with a customer. Instead, here are five tips that will turn you into a customer-service rock star.
Tip 1: Instantly mirror the expressions and tone of the customer. If the customer has his or her hand on their hips, put your hands on your hips. If your customer face is crunched in disgust, mirror his or her expression. You must mirror the same level of dissatisfaction that your customer has with the problem.
Tip 2: Quickly acknowledge the problem no matter how big or small the problem is. Use a brief empathetic statement while mirroring your customer’s facial expressions (e.g., Sharon’s response should have been, “Wow, I can see why you’re frustrated with the janitorial. Companies like ours should deliver. It is completely ridiculous!” Avoid an argument like you would flesh-eating bacteria.
Tip 3: Use active listening skills.
- Use “Uh-huh” and “I see” statements when the customer is explaining the problem
- Summarize the complaint
- Empathize with the customer
Encourage the customer to talk about the problem. “Where did our janitorial services fail?” Focus all of your attention on understanding the complaint and the customer’s point of view.
Tip 4: Provide a solution to the problem. Assure the customer that the problem will be resolved. Ask the customer if he or she is satisfied with the solution. “John, you pay for quality janitorial services. I’m going to turn this around for you. Here is what I will do…how does that plan sound to you?”
Tip 5: Follow up with the customer. Once you have implemented your solution, ask the customer if he or she is satisfied with the resolution. Always square your follow-up2. Squaring your follow-up means following up twice…either next day or next week or next month, depending on the frequency of your service.
As a property or facility manager you deal with many contractors in your facility. From janitorial companies to maintenance companies, you depend on contractors to provide quality service to your facility. If their service fails, you may have to take the heat from building owners and occupants alike. When complaints ensue, apply these five rocking tips, and you will be surprised how they can turn an angry customer into a raving, rock-star fan.
There are many other aspects to customer service that can increase your rock-star status. What are your experiences or tips to diffuse angry customers or to deliver superior customer service? Please provide your ideas in the comment field below.
In 2011, Marc's team won the large company category, "Best in the Industry" marketing materials from the Building Service Contractor Association International (BSCAI). Marc also directs Varsity's proposal writing, sales process and tools development, marketing campaigns, corporate website SEO performance and customer support center.
Marc has spent his career developing strategic capabilities that enhance value to customers and the company. A Lean Sigma Green belt himself, he developed the company's Lean Sigma offering, providing an innovative solution to customers' need to lower cost while raising quality. He led the development of JanOPS, an industry-leading janitorial operating system, which brings standardization and service consistency to large campus and geographically disperse national accounts.
Prior to this position, Marc was responsible for strategic management at Varsity. He has initiated or directed multiple strategic technology initiatives, ranging from a corporate website, a corporate intranet, a web/smartphone based quality control system, a learning management system, a corporate content manager and knowledge wiki, salesforce.com deployment and customization, and an Android app which facilitates the GROW sales process he has developed.
Marc is the author of several leadership and management training manuals, field guides, marketing collateral and case studies. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish and holds a bachelor degree in English/Technical Writing and a Masters of Business Administration in Finance from Idaho State University. Marc enjoys mountain biking, skiing, fishing and golf. He is happily married, and he and his wife Victoria enjoy raising and spending time with their four children.