How to Turn a Bad Customer Experience into a Lifelong Relationship in 5 Steps

How to Turn a Bad Customer Experience into a Lifelong Relationship in 5 Steps

Posted by Stephen Spiegel on Aug 5, 2020

When a customer has a bad experience, you have to act fast

We’ve all been in this situation: your customer had a lackluster experience, and now he’s letting you know. When your customer starts crossing his arms, looking around erratically, or giving you two-word replies, your customer service clock is ticking.

No one wants to lose a customer, and no customer wants to walk away from an unresolved bad experience. Seventy-seven percent of customers report that a fast resolution to service problems is their biggest expectation from any business.

Here’s why that should matter to you:

On the other hand, when you listen to the customer’s needs, understand where they’re coming from, and show them that you care about keeping them around… they become a loyal customer. And 60% of customers buy more frequently from brands they feel loyal toward.

De-escalating an angry customer is important in more ways than one. Who doesn’t want to turn a lost customer into a lifelong customer?

How do you think on the fly and turn an angry customer into a happy customer fast?

Key Takeaways

  1. Customer anger is normal
  2. Listen actively
  3. Let them mirror your calm
  4. Understand where they’re coming from
  5. Pull out the weapons in your customer service arsenal

1. Let them be angry

It’s normal that your customer is angry after a lackluster experience. Difficult customers aren’t usually that way because they’re trying to be. Instead, they’re reacting to the situation and their own psychological headspace.

Understand that when your customer is feeling upset, it’s because they’re feeling like:

  • You don’t understand their needs
  • You don’t value their loyalty
  • They don’t have control over the situation
  • They feel frustrated

Anger is a natural response to feeling like you aren’t valued in a business relationship (or any relationship.)

Of course, you should always take their concerns seriously, but you shouldn’t take a customer’s anger personally. Taking it personally just makes it harder for you to handle the situation with emotional intelligence. Getting mad yourself only makes it harder to see the situation with clarity.

You can handle this by staying calm and trying to understand the situation. Ask for details and information and confirm what you heard by repeating it back. If there isn’t a short-term solution that the customer accepts, then it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation and look for other solutions.

2. Use reflective listening

Listening has levels, and too many customer success teams have a hard time knowing that. Because of that shortcoming, customers (justifiably) gripe that they don’t feel that they’re being heard.

How often have you overheard a customer call begin like this one?

Customer: We’ve been clients of yours for 10 years, and I’m not happy with the pricing this year.

CS Manager: I understand your concern, but …

Stop right there. You don’t even need to see more of the example.

If you’re beginning your statement to the customer with “I understand, but …” then you aren’t listening on the right level. Saying “I understand” isn’t showing anybody that you understand, and an unhappy customer won’t be convinced.

Reflective listening requires that you respond with the customer’s thoughts and feelings.

You listen while paying attention to the client’s words and body language, and you reflect what they just said. If you need more information, you ask for it.

A better response would be:

CS Manager: You’ve been with us for quite some time, and your budget has changed over time, but our pricing hasn’t changed to accommodate the budget. Let’s talk about your budget and your needs.

In this conversation, you don’t promise that you have a fix (because sometimes you don’t), but you let the customer know that you hear them despite that.

3. Diffuse anger

Emotions are contagious, especially in high-stress situations like a conversation with an unhappy customer. In many cases, you can reverse-mirror your emotional signals to control the situation.

It won’t work for every case, but much of the time, humans are susceptible to the emotions around them. If the customer gets angry, you might be tempted to get angry. But getting angry only escalates the dispute, even if you’re careful with your words.

Your body language and tone are enough to sway the situation.

Instead of getting angry, be friendly and understanding. Don’t let the customer sway the course of the conversation or affect your emotions. Often, the customer will pick up on your emotional control and reign in their feelings long enough to come to an agreement.

4. Understand the affect heuristic

The affect heuristic is the way your emotional response affects your behaviors and choices. Because customer service is all about behaviors and choices, the affect heuristic can be a critical tool in diffusing tough situations.

We all make decisions based on a gut feeling as people and as consumers. Your customer’s gut feeling affects their interaction with you, sometimes in a negative way.

For instance, we’ve all had customers who were apprehensive about service onboarding or constantly delaying the next step in your business relationship.

Each one of those customers was affected by the affect heuristic. They could have had bad experiences with their last service provider, which makes it easier to get apprehensive about the next.

You can understand your customer’s affect heuristic by asking questions. If a client isn’t comfortable moving forward, but you don’t know why, simply ask. You may be able to reassure them or empathize with a past experience, building rapport again.

5. Use your toolkit

If you’ve handled the situation with grace from every angle and the customer is still unhappy, then it’s time to bring out the customer success heavy artillery.

The weapons in your CS arsenal will depend on your organization, and the exact situations you end up needing to de-escalate. But in general, they can include:

  • Consulting with a colleague, who can help reassure a skeptical customer
  • Using Zoom with screen share to illustrate complicated solutions or concepts
  • Putting an overemotional client on hold to help reduce emotion in the moment
  • Transferring to a colleague who has more experience with the client’s exact problem

Customer experience is the lifeblood of your business. No matter how perfectly you follow protocol, some customers are always going to have a bad experience that you need to manage. And it’s important to manage it right – 92% of customers say they have no problem switching companies if they think they’d get a better experience elsewhere.

Crewhu’s managed services let you collect customer feedback with 1-click surveys, set SMART goals, monitor employee performance, and more. Reach out today to learn how Crewhu can bring your team to the next level.

Topics: Customer Service, handling customer service, active listening

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