A day in the life of a businessperson can be rewarding and satisfying or it can be frustrating and stressful. When things go wrong, some people lose control. Holding emotions in check and reacting professionally under fire are not always easy. It is particularly difficult to be nice when people are not being nice to you.
So what do you do to keep your cool when the customer is chewing you out? Most of the time, it is not even your fault. It could be that the problem was with a product or a service that was handled by someone else in your organization. You’re getting the blame because the unhappy person found you first. Good business etiquette suggests following these four steps to diffuse the situation and lead to a happy ending.
Step one is to apologize. “But,” you say, “it’s not my fault.” It doesn’t matter who’s to blame; apologize anyway. As the person representing your company, you have a responsibility to see that things go well. Your willingness to be accountable will have a positive effect. After all, it takes two to have an argument. If one of you refuses to be disagreeable, you can’t have a disagreement. You are not accepting blame—you are simply saying, “I’m sorry about the problem.” You are wasting your breath unless you apologize with complete sincerity so be sure that your tone of voice matches your words.
Step two is to sympathize with the irate customer. Let the person know that you can identify with his feelings. Don’t say, “I know exactly how you feel” if you don’t. Say that you understand the frustration of receiving a faulty product or poor service. The angry person begins to feel better as soon as his reaction is validated and he senses that you are on his side.
Step three is to accept responsibility for the situation. Be accountable to the customer. Let him know that you intend to do whatever it takes to make things right. You can’t help what has already happened, but you will come up with a solution to the problem or you will find someone who can.
The last step is to prepare to take action. Decide what you can do and tell the customer. You will replace the defective or incorrect product as quickly as possible. If the issue was poor service, deliver better service. Whenever you can offer a bonus of some sort or waive fees, the tiger in front of you will be transformed into a pussycat.
Use the acronym “ASAP” to remember these four steps for calming upset customers. Each letter represents part of the process.
A – apologize.
S – sympathize.
A – accept responsibility
P – prepare to take action.
Becoming argumentative and reactionary will solve nothing. Instead, diffuse the client’s anger by being apologetic and sympathetic and focus on positive steps that will resolve the situation. Before you know it, your adversaries will become your allies.
Oh yes, remember to smile. It will make everyone feel better and behave better. And it is simply good business etiquette.
Here’s to happy customers!
Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.
Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions. Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.
Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.
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