“What Should I Say When The Customer Calls And He’s Mad As Hell?”

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Anything except, “I’m sorry!”

You can say, “I apologize,” but that’s not what the customer is looking for. You can begin to tell your story about what happened, but that’s not what the customer is looking for.

The customer is looking for two things: They want to know that you care about them personally, and they want to know what you are going to do about it now.

The best way to apologize is to let the customer vent first. Don’t interrupt, just take notes and make empathetic noises. You can even tell the customer that it makes you mad too. Second, ask the customer what their speed of need is. Do they need it by tomorrow? Do they need it today? Or did they need it yesterday?

Most customers will have needed it by yesterday. This is your big chance to be memorable, by getting it there the day before yesterday (just kidding). The reality is their need for speed will determine your action plan for recovery. Realize that you have hit a flash-point and are in jeopardy of losing the customer. Therefore, any action you take towards recovery is a positive one.

The interesting news is that most big companies have firm policies in place that preclude memorable recovery: needing an invoice, needing a customer number, needing a return shipment authorization, and other crapola that no angry customer wants to hear.

FINAL ANSWER: Tell them what they want to hear. That you apologize, that you understand how they feel, that you are meeting with the appropriate people to get a resolve, and that it will be done in 24-hours. No blame, no excuses, no drama.

EPILOG: Follow up with a personal call and a personal note of thanks. This makes the recovery complete, and paves the way for the next order, or a favorable referral.

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  1. I totally agree with your response with this! Especially letting the customer vent. If they don’t get their “say” in, you will not get anywhere. I’ve also learned to never make excuses but try & find out what will satisfy the customer. Sometimes it’s a lot less that you might think.

  2. Taking responsibility, and solving the problem works every time! I love the idea of following up on the complaint! Thanks!

  3. I think sometimes salespeople forget how maddening it to hear excuses and nonsense when they experience poor customer service. I know it drives me insane as a sales professional. I challenge sales pros to keep their last awful customer service experience (as a consumer) in the back of their mind. Never forget how it feels to be mishandled and you’ll be more likely not to do it to your clients! Simple!

    More customer service types need to step up to the plate, accept responsibility and solve the problems. There’s nothing I dislike more than being taken for granted as a consumer. Sales professionals need to remember that!

    Great post, great book!

  4. As simple as this sounds, and it really is simple. Too few companies have either untrained or poorly trained front line sales people or customer service reps that have no clue to calming a customer on the war path.

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