Customers from Hell – Top 4 Tips for Handling
Customers from Hell
Customers From Hell can cost your business dearly if they choose to use the internet and Social Media to promote their stories of discontent. The recent increase in the number of Online Reputation Management companies validates this, however smart companies have learned some simple strategies and techniques on how to deal with the Customers from Hell, and try to “catch” them before the problem escalates, let alone they post anything negative online. Whilst it may be impossible to completely eliminate Customers from Hell, it certainly makes sense to do as much as we possibly can, to reduce the numbers.
Customers from Hell – Top 4 Tips
1) Listening +. Yes it seems really simple and trite but how many times have you spoken to a “made up name” in a call center who was listening, yet didn’t really care? Listening + means that you are not only listening, but you are empathizing and, you are sympathizing, it also means that you really genuinely care about changing things around and creating a positive outcome. If you take a mother into a crowded nursery with 50 kids crying, she will always hear her child’s cry above the others. This is quite simply because she is Listening +; she cares about the outcome. If you change your mind set and understand the problem is not the Customer from Hell, but the issue that they are calling you over, and then focus on that, then you are much more likely to achieve a positive solution. Listening + includes allowing your Customers from Hell to “vent” their frustrations and maybe even their anger, without interrupting, and without rushing in with solutions. Remember it is impossible for any human being to remain at a high level of emotional charge, whether positive or negative, indefinitely. Trying to gain additional information or offer any form of solution whilst someone is extremely emotionally charged, often is not productive as they are just not listening. Listening + means not taking things personally – they are seldom frustrated or angry with you. They are frustrated with the situation they find themselves in, and our job is to help change the situation to a positive one.
2) Focus on Getting it Right, Not Being Right. Customers From Hell are not always right by any means, however focusing on getting things right and not being right, will allow you to help those customers who, shall we say, are not wrong but have misunderstood. I remember the time my wife rang the local Toyota dealer to tell them off for not returning her call, when she was trying to book a service. When they both realized the problem was she had a Honda and was indeed waiting on a call from the Honda dealer, the Toyota Service Desk even offered to find the Honda telephone number for her. Being right in business will only boost your ego, not your bank balance. Above all else we must therefore, through refunds, warranties, exchanges, replacements or whatever it takes, make things right for the customer. According to studies happy customers tell 3-5 people of their experience versus unhappy customers who tell 8-10 people of their negative experience. Customer Service problems are a great opportunity for you to shine and show Five Star service. I genuinely believe most people by far are very reasonable and accept things can go wrong some of the time. You must admit and apologize for any short comings that either you or your organization have. In addition you must also be honest and never lie even if the truth hurts you.
3) Follow Up
If your Customers from Hell are difficult for you to deal with they may also be difficult for your competitors to deal with. So if the business is important to you, try and turn your customer from hell into your friend and ally. In B2B Selling, if your business is typical, around 80% of next years’ income will come from existing customers. It is therefore of paramount importance that once we have resolved any situation, we follow up to make sure the customer is truly happy. Schedule a call or a meeting to make sure everything has been resolved and everyone in the customer’s team is truly back on board. We must also guard against a whispering campaign, where people out with our customers buying team, speak negatively about our products or services. A simple thank you card or
box of chocolates to someone in your customer’s team who was affected negatively, lets them know that you are thinking of them and that you care about their situation.
4) Track Service Data. There are a number of great Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools on the market and you absolutely must have one if you want to avoid Customers from Hell. Depending on the type, size and maturity of your business will generally dictate how you use CRM. Many companies initially buy CRM to help improve sales performance and whist there is no doubt CRM will do this, Customer Relationship Management is also a must have for delivering great customer service. As a minimum from a customer service perspective we should therefore use CRM to measure:
- How quickly we respond to the initial problem?
- How quickly we resolve the initial problem?
- How satisfied our customers are with the experience?
- Our customer loyalty and retention?
- The source and nature of customer problems?
With accurate data it is possible to eliminate, reduce and manage customers’ problems and in some cases even upsell unhappy customer’s products and services, that will make them happy. CRM data can also help us look in the mirror and see when we are less than perfect in our customers’ eyes, even when this may be contrary to our own beliefs.
Customers from Hell who are not properly looked after can undoubtedly reduce your ability to recruit new clients. There are countless examples on YouTube alone, such as the infamous Verizon maths call, which has had over ¼ million views. The customer became so disillusioned they created a whole website to highlighting the issues. This may be far less common in B2B selling, however it does happen. Take the high profile demise of Fortune 500 giant Figgie International who became the Customers From Hell for some high profile Consulting firms and rightly or wrongly blamed all their woes on the consultants they had hired – so much so that it ended up in court. Although this may seem an extreme case, unfortunately every week there are Commercial disputes between suppliers and customers that end up in court. With some careful thinking and forward planning Customers from Hell more often than not, can be converted into your best ambassador. It is what we do to help our customers when they most need us, that defines who we are as a person and who we are as an organization.
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