EPISODE 4: BAD CUSTOMERS
Five Steps to Turning Around an Angry Customer
Mark Murrell, founder and owner of GetMaineLobster.com, knows what it’s like to build a successful business. In a little more than three years, his online Maine lobster and seafood delivery service has earned an outstanding reputation for its exemplary customer service. But even the most conscientious business owners and customer experience professionals such as Mark can find it difficult to manage a situation with a disgruntled customer.
All good businesses need help and often provide training and mentoring to employees to hone skills in handling customer needs and complaints. And while many workers who interface with customers regularly are willing to admit they have moments when they feel clueless in their roles as mediator during customer complaints, those who ask for help when they need it learn that there is almost always a way to turn around a negative attitude—at least that’s what business owner Mark Murrell has found.
“You’re always going to get the good, the bad and the ugly when something goes wrong with a customer,” says Mark. “Thankfully, it’s almost always the good, even when things go south. With just about every obstacle, an opportunity awaits.”
Mark is quick to admit that his business makes mistakes. Shipping live lobsters overnight to every corner of the United States from Maine requires precision and relying on a multitude of variables—many over which he has no control. He sees the nature of his business as a perfect breeding ground for learning valuable lessons in customer-related business issues. He offers five steps to what he believes are the most effective ways of turning an unpleasant and complicated business interaction into an opportunity for customers first and businesses second:
Remain calm. Intensifying your tone to match an irritated customer’s tone leads to a complete breakdown in communication. The end goal is to diffuse the situation and shift the customer’s dissatisfaction to satisfaction. Listen. “The worst thing you can do is interrupt someone who isn’t happy,” says Mark. “Allow the person to voice the complaint and wait for the final pause in communication before you begin to send the message that you understand. Sometimes I just have to check my ego at the door.”
Mark adds that one of the biggest complaints he has relative to employees is that they can be too quick to jump in and start to defend.
Engineer the right solution. Asking the customer what can be done to correct the problem is the first step toward finding a solution. If the customer’s proposal isn’t possible, work toward finding a compromise. “Be willing to admit you’ve made a mistake and try to get beyond the regret that the mistake will cost you money,” says Mark. “It’s up to you, the person representing the business, to find a solution that both parties agree to that will cost the least amount of money.”
Follow up with the customer. Depending on the situation, this can be done over the phone or sending an email or postcard. Communicating with the customer after the dust settles sends a strong message that you are committed to finding a resolution.
Know when to let go of a no-win situation with a customer. “There are a sorry few individuals out there who really do make it part of their life mission to complain,” says Mark. “You have to know how to identify those people quickly and do your best to deploy your exit strategy, working all the while to do enough damage control to exit the situation graciously. You’ve succeeded in that if you haven’t stooped to that customer’s level.”
Like any job, employees who are charged with working directly with customers need to understand the duties and responsibilities that go along with it. Mark has become an expert in identifying who those people are and aren’t.
“Most of the unproductive issues we face with customers stem from either the mistakes that inevitably happen in a business operation or simple, resolvable communication glitches,” he says. “The big picture of excellent customer service lies in the actions and practices that lead to a positive lifetime relationship with customers.”
The value of these actions is seen in the level of success Mark’s business continues to achieve.
About GetMaineLobster.com-Black Point Seafood