Top-Shelf Tip No. 245:

"Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves."

Steve Jobs

Learning from Irate Customers

Have you ever had to deal with an irate customer over the phone? The difference in whether or not this customer remains a customer is based on how you manage the call. In the time it takes to reach for the phone and say "Hello," you must have the focus and knowledge necessary to take control and lead the caller back into your corner, as we explain in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

Preparedness comes by having the structure in mind that will allow your persuasive and reassuring abilities to control the situation. Let's begin with the approach; how you manage the window between the "ring" and the "answer" will define the experience as educational, confrontational or successful.

1. Do not speak until you have truly listened. The easiest of all customers to deal with in the world of irate customers is the one who just wants to be heard. These customers have begun to tell their story to the parking lot attendant as they parked their car, and each person they encountered en route to the manager's office. Their repeated rehearsal of the story should be your first indication that all they need is understanding and reassurance.

2. Do not defend until you have heard the attack. As you listen, do not formulate your responses, but follow the speaker with an eye towards understanding the nature of their accusations and allegations. The ability to effectively challenge someone's argument hinges upon your understanding of their argument, not on your own merits. Adopting the other person's arguments in your solution will make it much more difficult for a person to logically rebuff your offer of resolution.

3. Identify the true nature of the complaint. There are many reasons why a person will complain. Taking control of these types of complaints require you to listen and question the circumstances leading the customer to your door.

4. Focus on areas in which you and your company can improve. Even the most irrational or self-absorbed customers can teach you valuable tools to improve service. Consider the following checklist as a starting point:

• With whom have they spoken?

• Is the problem real or imagined?

• What are their expectations? Are they reasonable? Is this something you can address?

• How many people have they spoken with at your company?

• Have they been given sound advice or bad advice?

• Is the disappointment with your company or you?

• Have they been given sound advice but the problem rests with their inability to hear and understand?

• What can you learn from the situation to improve your bottom line?

Source: Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an adjunct professor at Widener University School of Law, Curcillo developed a hands-on course based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979.

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson

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