Too many people, when faced with clients who range from dissatisfied to downright angry, choose the loser’s path by postponing handling the situation. Worse yet, they handle it inappropriately.
Postponement doesn’t make the problem go away. It results in one of two things happening:
- The angry client decides the problem isn’t worth the aggravation and cools down.
- The client gets so angry that the next time you hear from him or her is through some sort of official (and possibly legal) manner. Worse still, you’ll see your company named on the local news channel in one of those consumer protection segments.
If you’re the business owner, you may think it’s ok to lose one client who’s unhappy, but it’s not. You see, when we have a good experience with a company we tend to tell three to five other people about it. Positive word-of-mouth is great for business. However, someone who is displeased with a situation tells, on average, 11 people about it. Can you see how your business could be hurt by that?
Naturally, no one wants to walk into a lion’s den and face an angry client. Yet, you must consider the value of this client to you, your reputation, and the company. In most cases, I would guess that it will be worth your while to face that angry customer and get the situation resolved as quickly as possible. As the sales professional, it’s your reputation at stake, as well as that of your company.
Here are nine steps I’ve developed for facing and dispelling another person’s anger. These steps work well in most situations because you’re giving the person the attention their dissatisfaction deserves.
1. Acknowledge the other person’s anger quickly.
Nothing adds more fuel to a fire than someone having his or her anger ignored or belittled. The faster you verbally recognize their anger, the better. Sometimes all you have to say is, “I can see that you’re upset, Mr. Smith.” You’re not admitting to doing anything wrong before the situation is analyzed, just acknowledging their displeasure.
2. Make it clear that you’re concerned.
Tell them you realize just how angry they are. Let them know that you are taking the situation seriously. Make notes of every detail they give you. And, tell them you’re making notes. Get them talking! The more they speak, the more time you have to consider how to resolve the issue. The better your notes, the better documentation you have if you must take the concern to someone else to resolve. Be sure to put the date and time of conversation in your notes.
3. Don’t hurry them.
Be patient. Let them get it all out. Never try to interrupt them or shut them up. In many cases, the best move is to simply listen. They’ll wind themselves down eventually. In some cases, they’ll realize they blew the situation out of proportion and feel foolish for it. Then they are likely to accept nearly any solution you offer.
4. Keep calm.
Most angry people say things they don’t really mean. Learn to let those things pass and take them up after you’ve solved the present challenge—only if you feel it’s necessary to do so.
5. Ask questions.
Your aim is to discover the specific things you can do to correct the situation. Try to get specific information about the difficulties the issue has caused, rather than a general venting of dissatisfaction.
6. Get them talking about solutions.
This is where you will learn just how reasonable this client is. By the time you get to this step, their anger should have cooled enough to discuss the challenge rationally. If it hasn’t, tell them you want to schedule a later meeting—even if it’s in an hour—to come up with some reasonable solutions. Let them do the rest of their fuming on their time.
7. Agree on a solution.
After you know exactly what the challenge is, you’re in a position to look for some kind of action that will relieve the challenge. Propose something specific. Start with whatever will bring them the best and quickest relief. Don’t get into a controversy over pennies at this time.
8. Agree on a schedule.
Once you’ve agreed on a solution, set up a schedule for its fulfillment. Agree to a realistic timeframe that you know you can handle. The biggest mistake you can make is to agree to something that cannot be done. If you do, you’d better be ready to face another bout of this person’s anger when you don’t come through.
9. Meet your schedule.
Give this schedule top priority. You’ve talked yourself into a second chance with this client, so make sure you don’t blow it.
Once you’ve satisfied the client with regard to this situation, you will have earned another opportunity to serve their needs in the future … and the needs of those friends they’ll tell about how well you handled their concerns.