How to handle customer complaints? Part 2: Calming them down

In a previous post, I described a situation where an angry customer came storming into my store.

I also talked about how many salespeople fail to follow-up on their orders because they are afraid to confront challenges if their customer’s expectations were not met.

In this post we are going to talk about how to calm down an angry customer:

In order to understand how to calm your customer down, you first need to know that your customer has two sides to their brain.

An emotional side and a logical side.

The emotional side is the part that is dealing with the frustration that they feel when their expectations are not met.

“Frustration happens when there is a gap between expectations and reality.” – David Ralph

The logical side is where the solution to the problem is going to be found.

When your customer confronts you with a challenge, they generally have the mindset they have to fight to get the problem rectified (This is usually based on past experiences). And so their brains are being dominated by the emotional side of their brain and they, in fact, are not thinking logically.

The key is to creating a solution is to first calm down that emotional side and then get them thinking logically.

The worst thing you can do is to tell them to calm down. This will only escalate their anger (and usually their voice).

Instead follow this process:

Step 1: Remove barriers – Come out from around the counter, square your body to theirs and look them directly in the eye (if you are in a face-to-face encounter). This will send the signal to your customer that you are not going to hide behind the counter or any barrier.

Step 2: Ask them how you can help them – This postions you as a someone who is going to work with them instead of against them. This also gives them permission to tell you their story. (Which you were going to hear regardless)

Step 3: Let them tell their story – Let them vent, purge, talk it out.

Step 4: Actively listen to their story – Don’t interupt, don’t try to justify, don’t try to solve … just listen.

Listen to what they are telling you.

Listen to how they are telling it to you.

Listen to what they are not telling you.

Not only will the customer tell you what the cause of their frustration is, but when you listen to them they will feel validated. Like they matter to you. This has a calming effect on them.

You may want to add a few listening words like, “ah-ha”, “yes” or “umm”, to show you are listening.

Or you may ask, “Tell me more” or “Then what happened” to dig deeper.

Step 5: Feedback your understanding – Paraphrase (not parrot) what you understood from their story. This will validate to them that you were indeed listening. It also allows them to make corrections, if what you heard is not what they meant.

Then say something like, “Boy, that must be frustrating for you.”

When you acknowledge in words what they are feeling, you leave them with the “finally someone understands what I am going through” feeling.

When their emotional feelings are acknowledged, it allows the logical (problem solving) side of their brain to kick in and they are now ready to listen.

Step 6: Negotiate a solution – Ask your customer, “What would it take to make this right?” By asking this question, you will be amazed how reasonable (most) people are. Often they will ask for much less than you may be willing to give and still walk away happy.

And that is really the key to solving customers challenges. Keeping customers happy.

Studies show that 95% of customers that have their complaint resolves quickly and effectively will return and buy again.

This makes sense, because they realize that things happen and they now know that you will be there for them in good times (when they buy) as well as challenging times (when something goes wrong).

In a future post I will share how proactively seeking out these challenges can help increase your sales (and profit).


2 thoughts on “How to handle customer complaints? Part 2: Calming them down

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