There are times when the customer simply wants to let off steam.
Maybe the delivery you promised hasn’t arrived.
Or some of the equipment has broken down.
Or there’s simply too much pressure on the prospect and they must let someone know how they feel, and you’re the nearest human being at that time.
Whatever the reason, it’s always a good idea to let the person finish their rant.
Why is that? Because the emotion they are feeling at that time needs to find a way to be expressed.
If it doesn’t, the pressure of being bottled up may cause a more serious explosion later!
So, what’s the best behaviour to adopt when the customer decides to let you have it both barrels?
Here are some tips.
Resist the temptation to jump in and interrupt.
If you do interrupt, you make the customer lose their thread and the emotion (justified, in their mind) will remain there and even be fed more ammunition.
Instead, carefully listen to the facts, and differentiate them from opinions.
Hearing the customer say, “Your products stinks!” is a lot different to “Your product has broken down three times this month!”
Give the customer chance to be clear on what they are saying, which is often difficult if you are in an emotional state.
Use reflective statements to show your level of understanding.
Reflective statements show you’ve been listening and don’t act as judgements about what’s been said.
A reflective statement reflects the emotions felt by the other person.
They sound a little like these:
“It sounds all this has frustrated you”
“I can tell you’re really exasperated by this”
“That couldn’t have been very good for you”
“I can understand your feelings on this”
“Go ahead…I’m listening…”
Each of these shows you have been listening and trying to understand the customer’s anger or disappointment or vent.
It also shows you are being slow to judge and are trying to see the position from their eyes.
When the customer has calmed down (and they will if you let them expand on their emotion) sum up the situation as you see it.
Remember, when the customer is in a highly emotional state, they simply can’t think logically.
Think that through for a second.
When you are highly emotion and someone asks you to calm down and think logically about something, what’s your general reaction?
Probably to get even more emotional!
So, the way to see this is to let them vent and then explain how you see if, validating the feelings before trying to act on it.
It would sound something like this:
You “OK, Jon, I can see this has really caused you some problems”
Jon “You bet it has……!”
You “Let me make sure I’ve got this right. You were promised by the office that the delivery would take place on Monday. It’s now Wednesday and you’ve not received it, and it’s caused you major problems with your customer because now you’ve broken your promise to them. Am I correct in that?”
Jon “Yes, that’s about it. What are you going to do about it?”
What you’ve now got to is a point when you can work out a solution.
Nothing can be done to rectify what caused the situation in the first place.
The time and place to find out what went wrong is not now and not here.
Start talking in terms of logical assessments, solution opportunities and collaborative answers.
You do this after the customer has finished venting, not before.
Remember, this is one of those occasions where you simply must bite the bullet and let the customer express their feelings.
Your company may have let you down but trying to make justifications here is not what is needed.
Leave that until afterwards when you do your enquiries and make sure it doesn’t happen that way again.
By doing this, you gain control of the conversation again and allow it to focus on solutions rather than errors or problems that caused the emotion in the first place.