How to Resolve Problems Without Giving the Store Away

 

 

This training video is from our Golden Method for Complaint Resolution online video course…

The Golden Method for Complaint Resolution Online Video Course
This multi-media online training program positions customer service representatives to regain control of difficult conversations and to regain customer goodwill after even the worst has happened. Full of specific tips to handle difficult customers, as well as tools to completely restore customer confidence in the wake of problems, the Golden Rules Training System guides customer service representatives as if Myra was right there with them.

This program includes 25 video modules with Myra Golden leading customer service representatives through field-tested and proven strategies for regaining control with angry and difficult customers.
View details.

The Consumer Vigilante

How to Defuse Aggression and Steer Clear of Danger with Consumer Vigilantes

 

There’s a certain degree of extremism that’s popping up, a sense of “I’m going to get results, whatever means necessary.”

 Pete Blackshaw

Executive vice-president of Nielsen Online Strategic services.

Last August a 76-year old retired nurse named Mona Shaw walked into a Comcast office with a hammer and smashed a computer keyboard and telephone switchboard to smithereens and then screamed, “Have I got your attention now?” Why? Because, according to Ms. Shaw, Comcast failed to install her service properly.

Mona Shaw has become a media sensation, appearing on the Oprah show, podcasts, and television news broadcasts.  T-shirts with her silhouette holding a hammer with the tagline: “Have I got your attention now?” have been created.

Ms. Shaw’s behavior is the textbook definition of Consumer Vigilante. This is real, very serious and potentially dangerous for those of us serving customers.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: on average, 5 retail or service employees are murdered and 4,500 are assaulted on the job by customers each week in the U.S. (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.)

Consumer vigilantes are nothing to play with. Psychologist, Dr. Terry Riley, offers this observation: “Today’s customers are more harried, more demanding, and more dangerous than ever.”

With an apparent trend toward more incidents of vigilantism and rage, “the safety of your employees, your customers, and your company’s assets takes on new, urgent, and challenging dimensions.” (Riley, 2002).I want to help you protect your employees, your customers, and  your assets and in this article I offer 8 tips to help you protect your employees and your assets from today’s consumer vigilante.

There are some proactive approaches you can deploy to intercept an escalation in aggression. These approaches are no magic formula, but they can assist you in keeping the hostile customer from escalating into rage. Following are 8 tactics to help you.

  • Avoid the appearance of a physical challenge. Body language is powerful in any human interaction and especially so with angry or hostile customers. Your body language needs to send the message that you are cooperative and open. The best stance is going to be to the side of the customer. This way, you pose no physical challenge to the customer and you’re also in a less vulnerable position should the customer become violent.
  • Help customers feel they have choices, options and control (Bacal, 1998). It’s very important for customers to feel they have some control over the outcomes of their situation. Give them options and let them make choices, even small ones. Reducing choice and removing privileges tends to encourage aggression.

 

  • Immediately isolate the customer.  Terry Riley in C.H.A.R.M. School (Lessons in Customer Hostility and Rage Management) gives this advice: “The customer’s increased state of agitation warns of potential violence. If he has not already been isolated, do this immediately. Then make sure that a backup notifies the local law enforcement authority of the situation. If backups are not available, you must alert security or the police. It will probably be necessary to use a coded message to request assistance so as not to further enrage the customer.”
  • Use a calm tone and non-inflammatory words. Deliberately use your voice to create calm. Speak slowly (so that you can think before you speak). Avoid escalating your voice, and never threaten the customer with inflammatory statements like: “If you don’t calm down, I can’t help you.”
  • Strategically deploy “delay” tactics. Robert Bacal, in Defusing Hostility, says “As long as the aggression is not escalating and shows signs of lessoning, there is an advantage to allow a “time-out”. Look for an opportunity to interrupt the escalation process by creating a time out. Asking for further clarification of detail of the issue, for instance, both refocuses the customer on the issue and causes time to pass.
  • Don’t leave the customer. It is best that you don’t walk away from an angry or hostile customer. Your departure may infuriate the customer or leave him feeling abandoned. If you absolutely have to step away, your delays should be brief (no more than 30 seconds). It’s better to call on a co-worker to conduct research/carry out business for you than to walk away.
  • Don’t make the customer feel quarantined. The customer should never be made to feel punished, ignored, or alienated, as these feelings will lead to increased escalation in aggression. 
  • Get help.  If the customer expresses rage on any level, you must immediately get help from a backup, security, etc. Do not attempt to handle an escalated customer by yourself.

Deploy these strategic tactics if ever you are face-to-face with an aggressive customer, and you’ll have a far better chance of defusing aggression and steering clear of danger.

Sources Cited

Bacal, Robert,  Defusin g Hostile Customers: A Self-Structional Workbook for Public Sector Employees by Robert Bacal, Bacal & Associates, Winnipe g , Mb , Canada .

Riley, Terry, Ph.D, C.H.A.R.M. School : Lessons in Customer Hostility and Rage Management, Applied Psychology Press, Santa Cruz , CA, 2002.

“Cancel my AOL please!”

Most companies don’t realize they are putting a significant amount of revenue at risk by letting customers leave without trying to save them.

A recent study by Marketing Metrics has shown that companies have a much better chance of winning business from their lost customers than from new prospects. On average, companies have a 20% to 40% chance of selling to lost customers, and only a 5% to 20% probability of selling to new prospects.

Clearly, the executives at AOL have read the research and they know it’s smart to work to try to save customers who call requesting a cancellation of service. But, there is a right way and a wrong way to try to save a customer. The short video below illustrates the WRONG way to try to save a customer. Take a few minutes to watch this video to see what I mean.

 

This employee’s attempt at saving a customer is shocking and appalling. You will NEVER win back a customer by ignoring their requests, using sarcasm, or being rude. Never. This 21 minute phone call just affirmed in the customer’s mind that he had indeed made the right decision to cancel his account.

Here’s the right way to try to save customer…

I WILL NEVER FLY “You Know Who” AIRLINES AGAIN!

 By most people’s definition, I am a frequent flyer. Being a frequent flyer, one becomes accustomed to the many delays: weather, mechanical problems, last-minute refueling, announcements stating that the flight crew is en route from the East coast while you’re sitting at an airport in the Midwest—you name it and it has happened. Several thousand miles ago, getting upset about delays disappeared and an attitude (see Chapter One) of just “deal with it” to be proactive and productive developed. That was until I was forced to spend 12 hours in an airport.

I was in route to D.C. for a big event, in which an electrical lighting storm erupted while coming into the airport. Consequently, the airport shut down for about 35 minutes. This short shut down threw everything into total chaos. An hour and a half later, the eight letters no traveler ever wants to see illuminated in red next to my flight number— 

          C A N C E L E D.

I got booked on the next flight out which didn’t leave for another two hours. Two and a half hours after that flight was scheduled to leave, it was canceled!

The next flight I got booked on also canceled. It was a full 12 hours and nine minutes after the initial arrival that the departure for D.C. occurred. Livid, I vowed never to fly this airline again. That is until eight days later when I got a letter in the mail from an executive with that airline. The letter read:

Our manager in Dallas/Ft. Worth was concerned and asked us to follow up with you regarding your flight with us on March 11. We can understand how frustrating this trip must have been. Simply, we are very sorry for the inconvenience as a result of the delayed departure of flight 1808.  

As a frequent traveler, you know that good customer service sets us apart from the other airlines. So, when we don’t provide it, no excuse will do. Although we will never compromise safety for the sake of on-time performance, we sincerely apologize that your travel plans were disrupted while traveling to Washington , D.C.

We don’t want to lose your confidence in us and hope you won’t let this trip do so. Therefore, as an indication of how important your patronage is to us, I have added 7,000 Customer Service Bonus miles to your AADVANTAGE account. You should see this adjustment on one of your next two summaries.

Please continue to travel with us often. It is always a privilege to welcome you aboard.  

WOW! Four things absolutely WOWed me in this letter!

  •  
    1. First, the airline actually monitored my flight and knew that I had experienced a mind-boggling delay. Sure, they knew the entire airport was shut down, but this was personal. They acknowledged my inconvenience.
  •  
    1. Secondly, the airline apologized for an initial event that was completely out of their initial control.
  •  
    1. Next, they asked me to continue to be their customer. The letter ends with: “Please continue to travel with us often.”
  •  
    1. And finally, to ensure my loyalty, they gave me something—7,000 miles. And that’s something to talk about. Seven thousand miles is one-third of the miles required to earn a round-trip frequent flyer ticket!

Do you think American won back this temporarily disgruntled customer with a letter like that? Oh yeah! In fact, I fly American almost exclusively now, rarely even rate shopping for competitive airline service. And my loyalty is based entirely on this highly effective save.

In business, it’s not how many customers you win,

it is how many customers you keep!

The average company in the U.S. loses half of its customers every five years (Frederick Richheld, The Loyalty Effect, 1996). Considering it costs four to six times more to acquire a new customer than to retain or win back an old one—and given the significantly higher probability of successfully selling again to lost customers than to prospects—it only makes sense to develop a customer win back plan.

 Here are Six Easy Steps to Win Back Customers: (the right way!)

  1. 1.     Track customers who leave. The first step of a win back program is to know exactly which customers are leaving and how many. Tracking defection is not just counting the lost, but it’s what those numbers are telling you. It’s about identifying the defected customer’s buying patterns, tenure and net worth to the company. This tracking prepares you for step two.
  2. 2.     Develop an at-risk profile. Analyze lost customers and look for common denominators, patterns and trends among the defected group. For example, the bank in our earlier example found that more than 20% of its lost customers were over 55, had been with the bank for more than ten years and had held multiple accounts. This valuable information must then be disseminated to the group responsible for customer retention so loyalty marketing efforts can focus on communicating with current customers who match the profile of high defectors. Those (at-risk) customers can then be protected from defection.
  3. 3.     Identify early warning signs of defection. In many industries, customers on the brink of defection can be detected by one or more factors. For example, a banking customer who has stopped her automatic drafts and direct deposits and whose average monthly balance drops significantly might be tying up loose ends and heading to a competitor. Discover what factors suggest your customers are on their way out, so you can proactively communicate with them and entice them to stay.

American Airline’s WinBAAck intelligence told them that frequent flyers that experience serious delays might be on the brink of defection. Therefore, the company quickly initiated communication with me and offered a goodwill token (7,000 bonus miles) to entice me to stay.

NOW, I ALWAYS FLY AMERICAN AIRLINES!

  1. 4.     Choose win back candidates. Determine which defected (or on the brink of defection) customers the company wants to win back. Not all defected customers will be a love loss. There are some customers you’re not positioned to create superior value for, and let’s be honest, some customers you just don’t want back. By selectively choosing win back targets, you can focus and maximize your efforts by going after only your best-fit customers.
  2. 5.     Go get ‘em! Develop and hold regular customer win back campaigns in order to win back customers, and learn why customers are leaving. Put together a team to personally call your best customers who have left and survey. (What’s prompted you to leave us? Where are you going? What attracts you to___?) Next, invite the customers to come back. Overcome objections they give you and assure them that you can and will deliver the level of service they expect and deserve.
  3. 6.     Follow-up with all win back candidates. When you win customers back, follow-up 30, 60, and 90 days after reuniting to ensure you are delivering the level of service they expect—service that will keep them for life. For the customers you don’t win back, follow-up with a hand-written note thanking them for their past business and for the information they provided you after leaving.

Don’t do what AOL did, but don’t just let customers leave. Get proactive, set up processes to analyze lost customers and look for common denominators, patterns and trends among the defected group. Then, strategically use this new information for loyalty marketing efforts that will focus on communicating with current customers who match the profile of high defectors so those (at-risk) customers can be protected from defection.

When “Service Leaders” combine acquisition efforts with a strong win-back program, they can create a competitive advantage based on the strength of their service strategy.  

 

 

How to Get Any Angry Customer to Back Down

 

Imagine your next phone call is from an angry, irate customer, and you’ve only got a few seconds to gain control. Are you 100% confident you can handle it? If not, you’re not alone.


Most customer service professionals dread having to talk to difficult customers. And it’s no surprise. A simple encounter with a demanding, irate, or unreasonable customer can leave you feeling angry, frustrated, humiliated, or emotionally drained. But this doesn’t have to be the case.


I’m about to reveal a hidden way for you to literally convert sourpusses into sweethearts.

Simply put, you can use these insider secrets to instantly turn angry customers into raving fans for you and your company – without giving away the farm.

Here’s how to get any angry customer to back down:


You must acknowledge the fact the customer is angry.

A big mistake among customer service professionals is to ignore a customer’s expression of anger or tip-toe around it. There is something known as the communication chain. When people communicate, they expect the person they are communicating with to respond or react…this response is a link in the communication chain. A failure to respond to communication leaves the communication chain unlinked…broken.

For example, If I walk into my office and say… “Hello Sherry, how are you?” ….and she says absolutely nothing, she’s broken the communication chain. And that leaves me feeling awkward, perhaps embarrassed.

If a customer expresses anger and we fail to respond to it, the communication chain is broken and the customer feels like they are not getting through. The customer might become even angrier and more difficult, as they are resorting to whatever it takes to feel “heard” and understood.

You can keep your angry customers from getting angrier by confidently acknowledging their anger and responding to it. You can respond to anger with a statement like, “Clearly you’re upset and I want you to know that getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” This statement directly and professionally addresses anger – without- making the customer even angrier. Now that the anger has been acknowledged, you have completed the communication chain and the customer feels heard and respected.


Allow the customer to vent, but don’t lose control.

An Angry customer can be compared to an erupting volcano. When a volcano is erupting, there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t speed up the eruption, you can’t put a lid on it, and you can’t direct or redirect it…it must erupt.

When a customer is angry, they must experience and express their anger – and often this is done through venting. We should not interrupt an angry venting customer or tell them to “calm down.” This would be as futile as trying to tame a volcano. A volcano erupts and eventually subsides. Your angry customer will vent and eventually calm down.

Always let angry customers vent. In most cases, your customer will only need to vent for 15-35 seconds. Venting beyond 35 seconds can become ranting and cause you to lose control. After a few seconds of venting, you’ll want to jump back in and move the conversation forward constructively.


Apologize…whether the fault lies with the customer OR the company.
It’s amazing; the mere act of apologizing sincerely to a customer can result in an immediate calming effect and move the customer right out of a hardball mentality.


But a lot of companies advise their employees NOT to apologize to customers because they want to be careful not to assume responsibility for a problem that may actually be the fault of the customer.

You need to know that it’s possible to “safely” apologize to customers. Here’s an example of a “safe, but sincere” apology offered when the problem is clearly NOT the fault of the company:

“Mr. Smith, please accept my apology for any inconvenience this misunderstanding may have caused you.”

Notice, this apology does not blame the company OR the customer…it’s offered simply to create goodwill. Always apologize and be sure your tone sends the same message.


Try a little Verbal Aikido
In my live Handling Difficult Customers seminars, I demonstrate the martial art Aikido and offer it as a strategy for diffusing anger. I began teaching this unconventional approach to managing conflict after having my breath taken away as I watched Steven Segal effortlessly defeat his opponents without violence or aggression in half a dozen of his movies. Aikido is a nonviolent martial art that can be effectively applied to conflict situations with customers. Here are a couple Aikido principles that you’ve gotta try out with you next difficult customer:


(a) Never meet force with force. In Aikido there are no direct attacks and very little striking or kicking. When dealing with angry customers it is natural to respond to an attack with an attack. If the customer yells, we might be tempted to escalate our voice. When the attack gets personal, we may become defensive and less willing to work with the customer. While we may feel justified in launching our attack because we’ve been attacked, we must realize that a defensive (forceful) response only escalates the original problem. Let’s learn from the Aikido masters and not attack back defensively. Instead, we will respond carefully and strategically.

(b) Work to strategically calm down the attack. In physical Aikido this is done by both the use of relaxed body posture and open hands. Verbal attacks from irate customers need the same calming strategy. In Aikido, the master will step aside rather than confront the attack. This takes the power and speed out of the attack and allows the master to stay centered and calm. When you respond to your customer with “Clearly, we’ve upset you and getting to the bottom of this is just as important to me as it is to you.” anger begins to dissipate. You’ve addressed the anger directly and non defensively and you haven’t been pulled into the drama of the attack. Strategically choose your words and tone so that you come across with confidence, control and credibility. This “strategy” will calm down the most ballistic customer.

Pull out the tried and true “Broken Record” technique.
If your customer is ranting, raving, or rambling and you feel you have lost control of the conversation, you can quickly regain control using the Broken Record technique. Use this technique by simply repeating a sentence or phrase over and over again until your ranting customer hears you. It can be as simple as:

“Mr. Jones, what I can do is send you coupons for three bags of potatoes chips.”


“Mr. Jones, what I can do is send you coupons for three bags of potatoes chips.”


“Mr. Jones, what I can do is send you coupons for three bags of potatoes chips.”


This example would be effective for the customer who is demanding more, but three coupons is your limit. The reason this technique works is that typically, repeating yourself, verbatim, in a non-confrontational tone, will force the upset customer to stop talking – if for no reason – than to get you to stop repeating yourself. It’s very much psychological.


In Summary
Acknowledge your angry customer’s “pain”, let them vent a bit, don’t be afraid to apologize, and always have one or two verbal self defense techniques on stand-by. When you do, you will be thrilled with how effective you are at getting angry customers to back down. And once you’ve gotten a taste of how easy it truly is to get angry customers to back down, I believe you’ll be completely STOKED and actually look forward to the challenge of facing tough customers.

26 little ideas to help you be nicer to unhappy or complaining customers

Portrait of a smiling business woman with an afro in bright glass office

Here are 26 ideas you can print off and share with your customer service employees. Or, you could share these ideas in a quick 3-minute training.

 

The ABC’s of Customer Recovery

Act as if every lost customer’s value to the company comes out of your paycheck.

Believe the best of customers. Don’t make the mistake of assuming most customers are out to simply get something for nothing. The truth is, less than 1% of customers contact companies with ulterior motives in mind.

C ommunicate with diplomacy and tact when you final answer is “no” and when explaining company policy.

D on’t tell a customer she is wrong. Telling a customer they are wrong never makes them want to agree with you. It only pushes them more forcefully into their original position.

E mpathize with unhappy customers and allow this empathy to season your responses.

F ind a way to say “yes” to customers. Instead of saying “no” or telling the customer what you can’t do, think critically about what you actually can do.

G ive a token item such a coupon as a concrete form of apology.

H ave a sense of urgency. Demonstrate with your words and speed of response that getting to the bottom of the problem is just as important to you as it is to your customer.

I nvolve customers in the problem resolution process. Sometimes it’s very helpful to simply ask, “How do you see us resolving this?”

Jot down the customer’s name and details of the problem they are describing so you don’t have to ask the customer to repeat information.

K eep customers apprised of your timetable and progress toward resolving their problems.

L isten with the intent to truly understand your customer, not with the intent to interrupt, reply, or correct.

M onitor your voice and attitude to make sure you sound  friendly, helpful and willing.

N egotiate resolutions that balance both the interests of your company and your customer.

Open the door with unhappy customers with open- ended questions. Make your questions demonstrate a sincere interest in better understanding the customer’s problem or experience.

P ut yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you feel if the exact same problem happened to you?

Q uickly apologize. Apologize both when the company is at fault and even when the customer is responsible for the error. An apology goes a long way in creating calm, diffusing anger and regaining goodwill.

R ecognize that the issue is not the issue. The way the issue is handled becomes the real issue.

S ay “no” diplomatically and without causing resentment. The best way to do this is to start out by telling the customer what you can do.

T hank customers for their feedback.

U p-Service your customers by suggesting products or services that enhance the value of their current purchase.

View the customer as the reason for your work- –not as an interruption to your work.

W OW customers.

EX amine the root cause of problems and work to eliminate problems at the root.

Y ou are the company to each customer. Never underestimate your power to influence the customer’s future buying decisions.

Zero in on the customer’s needs and wants.

 

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches and phrases to help your employees help your customers.

7 Questions About Negotiating with Customers with Myra Golden

 

 

 

1. Is it wise to make concessions when negotiating with customers?

Every negotiator, even savvy executives, concedes from time to time and as long as the concession makes good business sense, it’s okay. BUT – and this is a BIG but – you need to be aware of what your concessions are saying to customers.   A large concession on your part tells the customer he can get a lot more, so he may press you for more. Rapid concessions undermined your company’s creditability. Only make concessions if you have considered all of the alternatives, you feel it will maintain the customer’s loyalty, and when it balances the interests of both your customer and your company.

  2. How do you respond in a negotiation with a customer when the customer’s demand is unreasonable?

 I use 5 little magic words: “That sounds a little high.”  And then you pause. No matter what dollar amount the customer puts out, just state the 5 magic words and then sit back and wait for their response. Most people become increasingly uncomfortable with silence and will feel compelled to respond. Most likely, your customer will either make a more reasonable request, or they will try to justify their request.

 3.  What do you do when you find yourself in a deadlock with the customer in negotiation situation? That is, what do you do when the customer isn’t accepting your offer and you are not willing to concede?

Don’t allow the customer to push you into a corner. Here’s a phrase that will help you set and enforce your limits, while at the same time moving the conversation forward: “We see this differently, and I am going to have to put more thought into the perspective you have shared with me. It’s helpful to me to understand how you see things. In the meantime, here is what I can do to solve the immediate problem.”

4. Is it appropriate to negotiate with a difficult customer who is actually responsible for the problem they are complaining about?

I am not for compensating customers when the problem is clearly their fault. Never forget, today’s exception becomes tomorrow’s expectation. Customers have eternal memory, and they’ll expect you to give in again if they encounter the same “human” error. Here’s how I’d respond to the customer when the problem is clearly their fault:

“We appreciate hearing about your experience, but we cannot compensate you in this matter because you failed to follow instructions (or misused the product, etc.)”

 Negotiate Like a Diplomat  (Immediately downloadable Webinar Recording)

10 Simple Strategies for Negotiating with crafty, cunning, and unreasonable customers Learn more!

 5.  Should frontline customer service employees be involved in negotiations with customers or should this always be the responsibility of supervisory or management employees?

As long as employees are trained, empowered, confident, and known to make good judgment, they can negotiate with customers.  Having said that, it’s often a good move for frontline customer service representatives to admit early on that they don’t have the final say in a negotiation. (Even when they do have the final word, this is a good move.) Admitting this gives the representative a graceful exit, should negotiations become deadlocked.

 6. What are some of the most common tactics customers use to paint companies into a corner in a negotiation situation?

There are many tricky tactics customers will use when negotiating.  When it comes to negotiating a settlement in a product liability complaint, a common tactic is the use of hypothetical questions. An example hypothetical question is “If my 3 year old son had bitten into the hamburger that had the piece of glass in it, don’t you agree that he could have been in serious condition?” This is clearly a setup and you cannot answer the question.  Get the customer focused on solving the actual problem that did occur and nothing more.

7. Is it appropriate to negotiate with customers via email?

Yes, it is. Ten years ago I would have answered differently, but today email is the preferred communication medium of many of your customers. You need to know that email negotiations tend to take longer than phone and face to face negotiations and email negotiations are less likely to end in agreement. If things become tricky via email, pick up the phone and call your customer.

 Myra’s gift to you…9 Phrases – word-for-word for how to handle difficult negotiation situations. Download your free handout now.

Do you ever find that you’ve spent more money to resolve complaints than you know you should have? Do you sometimes “pay a customer off” just because it’s easier to “get rid of them”? Do you wish you had more confidence in your ability to negotiate with customers? 

Introducing…

Negotiate Like a Diplomat  (Webinar Recording)

10 Simple Strategies for Negotiating with crafty, cunning, and unreasonable customers Learn more!

“Give Me 90 Minutes And I’ll Have You Negotiating Like a Diplomat.”  

Myra Golden

 From the desk of Myra Golden:

I promise, after this 90-minute How to Negotiate with Customers webinar, you will be inspired and thrilled with how effective you are at negotiating with customers.  And once you’ve gotten a taste of how easy it truly is to get angry customers to back down and reach win win resolutions, you will be completely STOKED and actually look forward to negotiating with customers!

 How to Negotiate with Customers is CLEAR, CONCISE, and geared to give you QUICK RESULTS that will empower you to reach agreements that balance the interests of both your customers AND your company.

Get the full story here.