Mistakes happen. Unfortunately, it is quite easy for upset customers to walk out after you have made a mistake. Thriving businesses know that service recovery is one of the most important components of customer retention. According to customer service expert and author Ruby Newell, it takes up to twelve positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. For customer service representatives, damage control is not only about saying the right thing, rather, it’s also about not saying the “wrong” thing during a customer interaction.

Before we talk more about what to do in a situation like this, let’s first list down what NOT to do:

?     Don’t be on the defensive- remember that your company’s reputation is at stake.

?     Don’t put the blame on others- especially not on the customer!

?     Don’t walk away from the situation – take maximum measures to resolve the issue.

?     Don’t give superficial options- lead with empathy and provide meaningful solutions.

?     Don’t appear dishonest to your customers- stick to your word.

By following a few simple damage control steps and implementing the right customer service training, you can transform angry customers into loyal ones. Here is a quick guide that’ll help you fix your mistakes over all three modes of customer service; face-to-face, over the phone and over social media.

Resolving Customer Complaints in a Face-to-Face Setting

If you’re in a customer-facing role at a bank, hotel, retail counter or the reception desk at an office, you’re bound to deal with dissatisfied customers from time-to-time. This may sound clichéd but putting yourself in the customer’s shoes can really improve your response as a customer service professional. A well-established customer service practice is to handle sticky face-to-face situations with the simple L.E.A.R.N. acronym.

L= Listen, E= Empathize, A= Apologize, R= Resolve, N= Now.

The most pressing need of angry customers is to be heard and you have to “listen” with your eyes as well. A University of Pennsylvania study reported that 70% of communication is body language, 23% is voice tone and inflection, and only 7% of communication consists of spoken words! Maintain eye contact with the customer, stand or sit up in your chair and give them your complete and undivided attention. This approach will definitely diffuse some of the tension. With the customer convinced that you are being attentive and that they are your top priority, confidently list down the possible solutions and work with them to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Mending Customer Service Blunders Over the Phone

In most businesses, a majority of customer service interactions take place through the phone. The most obvious pain point a customer experiences on the phone is the inconvenience of being put on hold for extended periods of time.  It is frustrating to be immediately put on hold for indeterminate time periods, especially when they are calling to lodge a complaint in the first place!

Try not to interrupt while the angry customer is speaking; instead, listen patiently and jot down the major concerns on a notepad. Once they have finished talking, give them a few seconds to calm down before you repeat or summarize their points.

The tone of your voice plays the key role here. Focus on using an even tone while you speak to them which is both calm and sympathetic. Do not forget to apologize for the trouble this problem has caused them. Then go on and provide them with options to resolve their issue along with an estimated time by when the solution will be implemented. Before hanging up the phone, always inquire if there is anything else you can do and if possible, add a compliment or crack a joke to lighten their mood.

Repairing Strained Relationships Over Social Media

Responding to customer support inquiries over social media is crucial to a business’s success in this increasingly technology-dependent age. Optimal response times for customer care issues over social media fall in the thirty minutes to one hour range.  Just like in a face-to-face setting or on the phone, first allow the customer to explain the situation without interrupting and then deal with them in an empathetic manner. The most challenging part is to sound “human” since body language and tone are key elements that are missing in a Facebook chat or a direct messaging conversation on Twitter.

Avoid giving robotic or scripted responses to an angry customer. It really helps if you include the person’s name in your replies because it sounds more human and they can relate to what you are saying more quickly. For example write something like, ‘Thank you, Sarah, for making us aware of the situation. Let me see what I can do to help you”.

Look through this particular customer’s history, such as prior interactions with the company on other social media platforms or via email, to gain valuable insight that can help you quickly resolve the complaints. Spelling and grammatical mistakes make you look unprofessional and can further irritate an already upset customer. This might sound odd but careful use of emoticons in your written communication can also help calm down distressed customers.

Finally, treat yourself to a cup of coffee after the situation has been successfully resolved.