Katerina Vinokhodova
Co-owner of Usedesk
Harsh words are not always a sign of a problem. Complaints are not still a sign that you are doing something wrong. But to avoid burying a tremendous amount of feedback, give importance to every message. Often a negative experience can be a lifesaver and turn into an opportunity. Being able to evaluate and adequately address customer complaints is key to making that happen.

Surveys show that 9 out of 10 times a customer will continue to work with you even after your mistake - but only if you completely corrected the situation the first time. Support is not about doing things right all the time, but about always being prepared to do the right thing. Here are a few principles for dealing with dissatisfied customers.
Look past the anger to the reason
It is a mistake to think that just because someone screams wild animals, his arguments have no basis. Your job is to look for the reasons for the disagreement.

The primary tool of the search is open and clarifying questions. Allow the client not only to vent his emotions but also to talk in detail about the situation. Listen to what he's talking about, not how he's talking.

It may seem tempting to ignore complainers as cranky and overly sensitive, but then you risk losing authentic and valuable feedback.
Capture and organize effective feedback
Free customers always request even more free service. Requests for new features turn into demands for new products. While helping customers is always the right thing to do, mindlessly following their demands is always the wrong thing.

Several messages from different customers with recurring problems are the beginning of a narrative. One complaint voiced only raises a red flag; you have to think carefully and decide what to do next.

The key to systematizing feedback is to make it visible. Give your team a procedure for how to record and handle complaints, and you can rest easy because you'll never hear about them.
Identify who you're talking to.
Here are some typical customers:

Silent. Generally reluctant to talk to you. He doesn't want to be a burden or thinks you won't care about his problems. Your job is to dig deeper and get to the heart of the client. Evoke trust, so he dares to tell you what's going wrong.

Aggressive. He is outspoken and doesn't hesitate to tell you everything that's on his mind. Don't give in to provocation, and don't mirror the client's conflicting behavior. Instead, respond with firm politeness, but not with submissiveness and uncomplaining - your team needs respect, too.

Important. This is your "representative" client; he pays well and demands to be treated accordingly. While others are happy to listen to your apologies, this client dismisses them dismissively. Mark him as a VIP so that employees know they have no margin for error when dealing with him.

Chronic Complainer. This customer will contact you often, and patience will be required here because he likes to whine. Unlike a whipper-snapper, he likes apologies and sympathy. Despite his constant complaining, he is sure to sing his praises to others if he is satisfied.

Unobtrusive. He is not looking for a satisfactory answer; he tries to beg for something he is not entitled to. Your answer will always be "not good enough" for him. Keep your composure, answer objectively at all times, and back up your arguments with concrete data. Make sure that your organization has done all that is possible for the customer in the circumstances.
Don't be passive-aggressive
"We're sorry you're facing this problem" is a phrase that makes clients furious. It is nothing more than a delayed admission of guilt.

Many use this phrase casually. Trying to apologize for sounds dismissive, and it's all thanks to the wrong tone.

Just apologize. Even when the complaint has no merit, directly ask for forgiveness and clarify how you can resolve the problem. If you encounter a hopeless case, remain friendly, professional, and flexible.
Switch quickly, but explain why
"Stay on the line; I'll transfer you. Your call is critical to us."

Horrible. Never pass up an opportunity to explain to a customer why you're not the one solving the problem. It's almost impossible for anyone to be happy about a call forwarding, but you have two options:

1. I'll switch you over.
2. I'm going to put you in touch with our specialist who will help you right now.

Without this brief but pertinent addition, customers won't know that you're doing "as well as you can."
Use positive language
It's easy to sway a client's mood in a wrong direction by choosing the wrong words.
Let's look at these two questions:

"Is there anything else wrong?"
"How else can I help you?"

By asking question #1 you are activating negative associations in the client. In contrast, by asking how you can help, you show that you are willing to address the client's needs.
Factor in the time
A quick response goes from desirable to necessary when it comes to an angry client.

It's helpful to set up folders where all "urgent," "important," and slightly less than unflattering appeals will fall. Your team will immediately see who needs attention right away.

Be sure to let the customer know right away that you are aware of the problem, understand its importance, and give an approximate deadline for resolution. Please give a rationale for these deadlines and share a rough plan of action. Here you kill two birds with one stone: reduce negativity and create a safety cushion of deadlines by the motto "promise later, do sooner.
Choose the right tone
Beware of extremes in tone with the client. Formalism is inadequate; familiarity is even worse. Avoid smiley faces if you report something unpleasant; diminutive suffixes are forbidden. Decide whether you want to "be friends" with the client or to solve his problems.
Don't drag out a hopeless case
If the client wants to cancel his bill, do it now. Don't attack the customer when he or she tries to walk away.

Being able to win the customer back for exceptional service is a fundamental victory. Still, when people already have one foot in the door, it's better to part ways without friction. See if there is a way to solve this problem, and accept it as fact if there isn't.

If customers cancel their accounts once, it doesn't mean they're gone forever. But don't piss them off on the way out if you're convinced they'll never come back.

Customer dissatisfaction is a chance to show what you're worth. Love and keep the complaint cases; they are what create the story of outstanding service.
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