How do you handle mistakes and the ensuing unpleasant encounters with irate customers? According to John Tschohl, President and Founder of the Service Quality Institute, in most companies, the employee lies and runs for cover. They figure it is better to let someone else handle the wrath of the customer and they know the customer will never remember who they talked to. Lying only kicks the can down the road for someone else to handle and creates a better chance the customer will never come back.
A screaming customer can ruin any employee’s day. If an unpleasant encounter happened at 9am with an irate customer it will be difficult for that same employee to be cheerful and nice to everyone for the rest of the day. It will be even more difficult if the employee was not given the training and empowerment needed to handle the problem.
There is no educational system in the world that will teach your employees how to handle these situations. If you want to reduce employee turnover, keep employees happy and have customers return to do business with you, all employees should be trained on how to handle Service Recovery and irate customers.
The customer is always right even if you think they are nuts. There are six steps I teach in handling irate customers:
1. Listen carefully.
2. Put yourself in the customer’s place.
3. Ask questions.
4. Suggest alternatives.
6. Solve the problem.
Service Recovery is how you flip an upset customer in 60 seconds who is maybe swearing because your organisation screwed up or he/she believes you screwed up. When I give my service strategy seminars across the world I ask executives to come up with 5-10 services or products they can give away as Service Recovery. Guess what? Very few can come up with even one. So, if the leaders have a problem what is the front line employee supposed to do? Which proves my point that according to my estimates, less than two percent of organisations practise service recovery. This leaves a company with only two choices.
1. Kiss the customer good bye: often the employee will say the customer was a jerk. Very few companies know the lifetime value of a customer.
2. Master service recovery: give something away that makes the customer excited about what happened so they fall in love with you.
A restaurant has a reservation for four people for you at 7pm. When you get there the hostess says, ‘We are way behind. All our fault. Would you and your guests please wait in the bar until we call you and have drinks on us.’
The host/hostess took a mere four steps in dealing with a potentially irritated customer:
1. Acted quickly: all this has to happen in 60 seconds or less.
2. Took responsibility: didn’t lie or move the problem to someone else.
3. Made an empowered decision: made a fast decision in favour of the customer.
4. Compensation: every organisation has things of value they can give away to compensate the customer for their mistake. Just apologising is nice and is good customer service but it is not Service Recovery.
Once you connect with your customer, it becomes easy and natural to take a concerned or irate customer and turn them into a valuable ally in growing your business profitably.
John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is the President and founder of Service Quality Institute with operations in over 40 countries. He is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on service strategy, success, empowerment and customer service.