|Letting customers express their problems completely first allows them to vent their feelings
When you handle problems correctly, you can use complaints to help build loyal relationships
Does your stomach drop when you hear that a client is unhappy and wants to talk to you? Do you dread hearing clients voice their frustrations with your service or products?
In truth, everyone dreads these moments. No one likes to face an upset or unhappy client. No one likes to hear the bad aspects of a business they have built so carefully. It hurts and makes you feel defensive.
The further truth is that leaders who view client problems with the correct mindset, using proper skills and training their team members on how to handle these moments, actually separate themselves from competition and become very adapt at building loyal relationships. In fact, companies that excel in these situations often find that clients who started out as “problems” become some of their strongest supporters.
How do you build this mindset into your company culture? How do you take the stress out of customer problems and make them into opportunities for growth?
First, it’s important to realize that most unhappy clients never tell you or your team how unhappy they are. They just leave and don’t come back. In fact, 9 out of every 10 unhappy clients never complain. Instead they tell eight friends about how bad their experience was.
Understanding how rare it is to have clients who are willing to share their problems with you and your staff is the key to developing the correct mindset. Why? Because these people are giving you a chance to correct a problem that 90 percent of the population will never provide. They actually want to give you a chance to keep them as clients! Instead of telling 10 friends how bad you are, they are telling you. And you should welcome that attitude. Embracing this rare opportunity puts you in a frame of mind to correct the problem. It not only helps you keep a client but also allows you build a very loyal client.
A ‘Damaged’ Print
What happens when you don’t fight complaints but accept them? First, you find it easier to listen, which is the key to solving client problems. Let them vent; their first need is to tell someone how badly they were treated. And better they tell you than 10 of their friends.
After allowing for some uninterrupted client venting, empathize and repeat back to them how they felt. A client wants to know that you understand what they went through. Never defend or justify what you or a team member did. That doesn’t matter to a client. That person only wants one thing: for you to regret what they had to endure.
By this time your client will have started to calm down because you have listened and shown that you understand what they went through. Then it is time to express your regrets for what has happened. And then ask what it is they would like you to do. By giving a client the power to suggest a remedy, you demonstrate a willingness to do whatever it takes. Ironically, most clients really only wanted to be heard and understood and are usually going to ask for very little other than what is fair.
Because clients often ask for so little, you can many times say yes to their requests—and even add in a little extra. They will be amazed. Not that they got what they wanted and maybe a little more, but that they were listened to and heard. They don’t encounter many businesses that really care about building relationships. Many claim to, but you proved that you really do! That’s something rare, something that builds repeat super clients because they have already realized their worst fear—poor service or product—and it was corrected very easily. This means they don’t have to fear anything when working with your company. They already know you care enough to make sure they will be satisfied.
I can remember when using this strategy really worked with one client. One of our galleries received a complaint that a piece we had framed had a dent or unevenness in the surface of the print that the client said was not there when we received the art. They insisted on speaking directly to the owner about the problem and seemed very upset. Two days later I met with them—the husband even left work because he was so angry and wanted to let me know directly how upset he was.
When they arrived they immediately began accusing us of ruining something that was very sentimental to them and then trying to cover up our mistake. They said many things that really hurt and were contrary to the way we do business. I bit my tongue and just listened because I knew they had to vent before they ever would allow me to speak.
When they stopped talking I told them I understood their disappointment. I asked if I could show them how the piece became damaged. They agreed, and I pointed out that the surface that the art was mounted to was uneven and somewhat lumpy. I told them that when it was mounted, the unevenness had been transferred to the art.
Next I explained that we didn’t mount the art. I showed them that it was mounted to a material that contained acid—something we never use. I showed them the acid-free substrate we use to mount, a material that would have allowed the art to mount smoothly. Suddenly the wife remembered that the art was mounted before we framed it. I agreed, showed them on the order form that they had not been charged for mounting and where the designer had noted that the surface was slightly rippled.
Needless to say, they stopped being angry and became great clients. Like anyone else, my first impulse was to defend the company since I knew we had not created the problem. But past experience showed that letting them vent their frustrations first would allow them to listen to my explanation. Even if we had ruined the piece, chances are they would have remained our clients if I had used this technique, emphasized with them, and then taken care of the problem by replacing the print.
Empower your team members to handle client problems in this way by listening, empathizing, and correcting the problem. When you do, there’s no reason the problem will even have to go to the boss. Your team will love being able to play good guy, and your client relationships will grow stronger because of it.