Handle with care: when customers blow up

This post is part of a series celebrating SmartSign’s 15th Anniversary. In 15 posts, we reflect on lessons learned, good experiences, and company-wide changes that brought us to this milestone of success. You can view the entire series here.

Tahyna Colon, our call center manager.

Tahyna Colon, our call center manager.

As any customer service pro knows, one of the biggest challenges to the job is maintaining an unruffled, professional demeanor, even when you have someone on the phone who might be abusive or difficult. Call Center Manager Tahyna Colon outlined five things to keep in mind when dealing with the occasional angry customer:

  1. Remind them that you’re there to help them. Tahyna says that simply reminding an upset customer that you want them to get what they want can go a long way. “Usually their voice will soften and they’ll apologize or say ‘I’m so sorry I yelled.’”
  2. “The customer is always right… for the most part.” Sometimes customers will have unmeetable expectations – it’s just human nature. Emphasizing the effort you’re undertaking to deliver even on those can improve a cranky client’s disposition. Be careful to draw a sharp line socustomers know that even if you do have wiggle room, you still operate under constraints, like any other business. “I’ll cave on some things, but I won’t violate company [shipping] policies and there are times when I can’t deliver no matter what, so I just tell people that.”
  3. Today, order size truly doesn’t matter. Tahyna says that since millions of orders have been processed on her watch, she’s used to the occasional difficult interaction with customers, but that “these days, anyone can write a nasty review on Yelp that hurts your business, so you really do have to treat everyone fairly and equally.”
  4. “Kill ’em with kindness.” If it’s within your power to do so, throw in extras after a customer blows up. A customer who starts out with a low opinion of the business because something has gone wrong, but then has sees you make an extra effort to make certain they’re happy, can be a huge coup – and a brand advocate.“It’s about building relationships,” Colon says. “After a while, they’ll remember you and start to call you back. I’ve been doing this for a while, so I have my core of customers who will call and say, ‘Hey, girl! I need some more tags.’”
  5. “You have to admit when you’re wrong.” Nothing frustrates customers more than an opaque fulfillment process in which customers suspect that you’re not giving them the best deal. Transparency is key. If you make a mistake, don’t wait for the customer to figure it out – contact them, and say so. 

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