Cool Off A Hot-Tempered Client

Cool Off A Hot-Tempered Client

Six vital steps your team must take to address and rectify a client's problems or issues with your snow and ice management service.

February 28, 2022

Business owners and employees face a special challenge when it comes to dealing with customers who are unhappy with your service, your products, your lack of attention, or a myriad of other things. The manner in which you handle those customers will have a direct impact on your business. If you don’t handle these complaints well, customers will leave you and take their business -- and money -- elsewhere.

Their patronage and their money become even more important when you realize it will cost you 10 times more to attract new customers than it will to retain current customers. For example, if 50 customers leave you because you didn’t satisfy their complaints, which would have cost you $50 each for a total of $2,500, now you have to spend $10,000 or more in advertising to attract customers who will replace those you have lost. You are backsliding in the number of customers who do business with you and in future revenue.

Therefore, it is imperative employers train employees to deal with irate and unhappy customers. When confronted by complaining customers your team must exhibit what I call the Four C's:

  • Compassion
  • Calmness
  • Confidence
  • Competence

And addition to the Four C's, your employees must take steps to address and rectify the problem and/or issue in question. I suggest your team employ the following on their path to problem solving and finding satisfactory resolution with an angry client.

1. Listen carefully
Let customers tell their stories; make eye contact as they do so. Pay attention to what they have to say. Sometimes that is all an irate customer really wants—someone to express an interest in what they have experienced and what they need.

2. Put yourself in the customer’s place
Be empathetic. How would you feel if you had experienced a similar problem? When you put yourself in the customer’s shoes you can better understand their state of mind, what they might be willing to accept, and what you can do to turn the entire encounter around.

3. Ask questions
When you do this, it lets customers know that you care about them and their problems. Asking questions builds a dialogue that you can build on. Questions should be open-ended, not those that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” This has a calming effect on customers and reduces the chance of the situation escalating. (As a side note, this also works when you are dealing with an unhappy boss, coworker, spouse, family member, or friend.)

4. Suggest alternatives
As you are asking questions, you can begin to formulate suggestions that will address the customer’s concerns. If the customer rejects a suggestion, don’t defend it. Instead, offer other steps you can take to remedy the situation. This gives customers a choice and lets them now that you sincerely care about their problems.

5. Apologize
Say you’re sorry. Own the problem, even if you weren’t directly responsible for it. This puts you in a good position to act in a manner that customers will perceive to be in their best interest. Saying, “I’m sorry,” carries a lot of weight in difficult situation because it illustrates your ownership of the problem and will help you to move past the emotion of the moment and on to practical solutions.

6. Solve the problem
Use everything you have learned during your conversation with the customer to solve the problem quickly and efficiently. At this point, you want to see the situation resolved as much—if not more—than the customer does.

Once you have solved the customer’s problem, it’s time to take care of yourself. Dealing with irate customers is stressful. Decompress by taking a break or going for a short walk to clear your head. Then congratulate yourself for a job well done.

Snow Magazine contributor John Tschohl is the founder and president of the Service Quality Institute — the global leader in customer service — with operations in more than 40 countries.