Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Customer Service Tip: 1 Way to Handle That Irate, Seemingly Irrational Customer

Have you ever gotten a call from someone who seemed to call...just to be unreasonable?

He or she seems to be angry, and no matter what solution or any other attempt you offer to try "making it right," that person seems bent on making sure that you're "wrong."

This person might not be as crazy and irrational as he seems.
Recently, a friend of mine got a call like this while I was with him.

Of course, I could only hear my friend's end of the conversation, but from what I could tell, he promised his customer shipment the next day, and he was having his crew assemble it that same day.

So his company was doing the work today to meet tomorrow's deadline.

What seems to be wrong with that?

This caller continued to berate my friend.  Eventually, my friend offered to fully refund this caller if it became clear that this approach was unacceptable.

(At this point, my friend was thinking that if the caller was THAT crazy, he did not want their money THAT badly.  A little bit of money is never worth a big problem, and I was sort of with him on that one.)

After the phone call, I mentioned to my friend that it sounded--to me--like there was a trust issue, because that caller was not responding to WHAT my friend was saying.  That person clearly was angry from something that happened--or didn't happen--prior to that phone call.

It was probably important to find what that person believed happened to trigger so much anger.

This caller came by the office almost immediately afterward to get that refund.

This complaining couple was in the waiting room, and they caught me as I was trying to leave the office.  They mistakenly thought I worked for my friend's company.

This couple started to explain their side of the story to me.

Without involving you in all of the drama, essentially what I learned is that this couple had been dealing with one of my friend's workers many months earlier.  That worker of my friend's company kept making promises that kept getting broken.

In all, we learned that this couple was really worried about not getting their order, because my friend's company had a track record of missing deadlines.

Based on this couple's version of the story, I would be upset, too.

While it is true that this customer probably exaggerated or embellished some parts of the story, it's also true that this "story" resembled the "truth" for this customer.

Eventually, this couple returned with the UNCASHED check and requested to continue processing their order.

Key Lesson Learned: We cannot satisfy a customer until we find why he (or she) in unsatisfied.

When we get a customer who seems to be irrational, that person MIGHT be crazy, but it is really important to find what that person believes to be the truth.  Many times, digging for their "truth" uncovers the real truth.  More importantly, that person feels like he (or she) is heard, and that customer feels like you really care about making sure that he (or she) is satisfied.

If we learn that this person continues to be crazy, then we can simply refund this person and whatever it takes to keep that person from spreading a negative word about you or your company.

Sometimes, wants to hear to hear us say that we're wrong.  Some of those times, we might even find they were right.  (If the customer is paying us, doesn't the customer have a good chance of being right, anyway?)

People are irrational...until we understand what is making them irrational.

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