We all went through the emotional turmoil of not receiving our online order, reaching out to the dedicated customer service, receiving an automated email, and still getting charged for an item lost in the meanders of postal services. It can be highly frustrating, not to say dangerously infuriating. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a constantly seamless customer experience, and the shadow of dissatisfied clients keeps lurking.
For starters, let’s have a quick overview of classic situations likely to irritate your customers.
Shipping Delays: When customers anticipate timely deliveries and experience delays, it disrupts their plans and causes frustration. Delays lead to a loss of trust in the seller, especially if they occur frequently. In today's competitive e-commerce market, customers have alternatives, making it important for businesses to prioritise timely and reliable deliveries to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Misleading Product Description: They create a gap between what customers expect and what they receive, who basically feel like they were scammed. It can result in unnecessary disputes, causing inconvenience for both customers and sellers. Inaccurate product depictions can damage a company's reputation and impact the overall shopping experience, underscoring the importance of transparency and accuracy in product listings.
Hidden Fees: Hidden fees irk customers due to their unexpected nature. They usually show up at the end of the customer journey, who feels like they built their hopes up for nothing and lost their time.
Technical issues: They can take different forms, such as problems with your UX design, technical bugs of all sorts, or customers getting charged multiple times, among others. Make sure your team is aware of any problem relative to the technical delivery of your service, and act quick to avoid any escalation.
Lack of consideration: Last but not least, don’t leave your clients hanging. The feeling of being overlooked is probably one of the most triggering. Customer care services leaving their customers on hold for hours or even days creates a snowball effect, for the dissatisfaction spans over a long period of time, during which people share their negative experiences with others and actively seek to counterbalance their frustration. Don’t let any space for their resentment to grow, otherwise your brand image will seriously deteriorate.
Why deal with angry customers?
In 2022, companies lost a staggering $1.6 trillion due to customer churn. A significant reason behind such customer defection is the idea that a company doesn't care about its clients. However, 80% of a company’s future revenue will come from 20% of its existing customers. Needless to say, losing one of them can be slightly more hurtful than expected, especially as going after new clients isn’t really a walk in the park.
Dealing with angry customers is daunting, we get that. But keep in mind that rolling up your sleeves and going down the path of forced smiles and apologies might prove to be more sustainable for your business than wishing your clients fair wind, since the probability of selling to an existing customer is between 60-70%, compared to a mere 5-20% probability of selling to a new prospect. Not to mention the fact it costs about five times more to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. On top of that, angry customers are likely to actively degrade your brand’s reputation, by simply leaving negative reviews which will surely discourage many potential prospects. In case you were still sceptical, going out of your way for your customers is worth the pain.
And there's no need to panic just yet, because we're here to assist with a couple of valuable tips fresh from our homemade recipe. So bear with us, and let’s deep dive into mindsets and actions that will help you deal effectively with customers on the verge of abandoning the ship.
1. Don’t accept "good enough"
58% of customers will never trust a company again after a single negative experience. In addition, 48% of themwill share their experience with over ten people, leaving a lasting imprint on a brand’s image. Even an average customer experience can trigger such negative responses, meaning it is essential to constantly provide "best-in-class" customer service that not only resolves issues but also puts a smile on people’s face.
We grant you this is easier said than done, but training your agents to some of the practices mentioned below can truly strengthen your customer relations in the long term, and help handling the trickiest customer complaints more effectively. The point will always be to align simultaneously with your business’s ethic and economic standards, avoiding pointless refunds or commercial gesture, while still satisfying the largest number of customers.
2. Act quick and show your online presence
We cannot stress enough how important your responsiveness is. The best practice would be to immediately answer on the appropriate channel, to avoid any avalanche effect. The last thing your brand needs is to have agitated customers publicly casting blame on your team.
While some contend that "there is no such thing as bad publicity", we strongly recommend against putting this theory to the test.
In case of an irreparable situation, you can always try to tame the fire by commenting negative feedback on social networks with complete, public honesty. Don’t hesitate to lay out the context, and explain where the problem comes from. If really necessary, offer solutions enabling customers to experience your services again, such as a voucher or a refund.
3. Leave some space for customer complaints
When a customer is angry, it is important to give them the opportunity to express themselves and vent their frustration. Customer care professionals should actively listen to customers and allow them to describe their issue in great detail.
It's important to use active listening techniques, such as rephrasing the customer's words to show that you understand their frustration. Agents should also ask open-ended questions to help customers express their concerns, while making sure they are not being interrupted. Only when customers have had the opportunity to fully express themselves can customer care operators begin to discuss potential solutions.
4. Leverage empathy to your advantage
Stating that clients should be heard and understood is now part of common knowledge. To a reasonable extent, customer care agents should embrace the clients’ perspective and offer a helping hand to the best of their capacity. Naturally, the initial response should be to offer an apology and acknowledge the company's accountability.
Still, empathy can go both ways. Being honest and transparent with your customers by giving them behind-the-scenes insights can stimulate empathetic reciprocity, and soothe the conversation. If the issue cannot be resolved immediately, don’t hide it. Set expectations in accordance with your clients, to let them know how their issue can be treated realistically. More importantly, meet those expectations, and if you can’t, let them know ahead of time, so you don’t damage the relationship further.
The author Stephen Covey aptly claimed, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply". When your product or service has an adverse impact on a customer, they may be dealing with internal consequences like anger, guilt, anxiety, or fear. Many of the usual prearranged answers will simply serve as emotional triggers, leading customers to unload their frustration on helpless agents. Instead of solely relying on the script, make the effort to show that you’re willing to work for them and not take the easy way out, even if it results in the same outcome.
5. Stay aware of client information
As put by Dale Carnegie, "a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." Not only can it be beneficial to call clients by their name (first- or surname depending on the company’s tone), but knowing about them and their situation is crucial to calm their anger before it escalates.
Making sure the complaint is well documented and communicated to the rest of the team is therefore necessary, for inconsistent interactions with customer service can cause confusion and exacerbate underlying hostility. Consistency prevents customers from repeating information, which can be highly frustrating. In fact, 92% of buyers are more likely to spend with companies that avoid making them repeat information. Sharing customer data and context across all channels ensures that everyone knows what the customer needs, their history, their issue, and the recommended solution. This is also why centralised ticketing systems are highly recommended, since they bring agents just a few clicks away from customer records.
6. Keep your clients updated
Once a solution has been proposed, it is important to follow the issue through to its resolution. Agents must ensure that all steps of the resolution are carried out in a timely manner and that the customer is informed of any changes. Keeping the customer informed about the progress of the issue is vital, even if it means providing regular updates. This will also help your company grow more intimate bonds with its clients, which can happen to be very beneficial in the long run.
7. Anticipate and Be Proactive
At the end of the day, the best advice is to prevent the fire before it ignites. Identifying at-risk customers before the point of no-return can save lots of money and long-term struggles. With only 1 in 25 unhappy customers actually complaining, many disheartened souls stay silent and take the exit. Taking proactive measures to identify these customers, and reaching out to them, is therefore an increasingly popular tactic for B2B companies, which engendered a 35% reduction in churn rate.
To do so, different measures can be implemented. Your team can first scout through marketing lists to identify customers who might be worth reaching out to. This list can include people who haven’t been contacted in a while, customers who encountered a problem during their last order, or others whose average cart is lower than the rest of the cohort. Take the initiative of picking up the phone or writing out email sequences to revive these relationships. Depending on the situation, you can even push a step further and offer a commercial gesture, before they even claim for one. Doing so in anticipation of a sticky situation will always be more efficient than reassembling the broken pieces.
8. Invest in your team
Leverage your experience to organise training sessions with your customer care service. Create scenarios, personas, and use cases to arm your agents with the most accurate tools possible. Expose them to a variety of situations, look back on the most tricky situations, and work collectively to develop special solutions which weren’t initially part of the script. This will also enhance your agent’s critical thinking, who will become more flexible and independent. When interacting with the clients in real-time, agents will be capable of identifying the best processes to both solve the issue while preserving the company’s status and finances. Such workshops can also be the occasion to practise emotional control, and to remind your agents they are not at the core of the problem and that they should not take things personally. Indeed, it is key for them to keep in mind that client frustration does not put them at stake, and that they should never give in to anger escalation, at the risk of truly impeding the brand’s image.
A final word from Onepilot
In conclusion, dealing with angry customers is not just about preventing immediate losses; it's about ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of your business. By adopting the right mindset and implementing specific actions, you can turn frustrated customers into satisfied, loyal advocates for your brand. Remember, it's not about taking "shit"; it's about turning it into gold for your business.