Being in the retail profession is a very noble profession, and extremely rewarding too! You have the power to make a difference to people’s lives and make them happy. Not many professions offer such opportunities. However, the flip side to being in this noble profession is that you can come across different types of customers – some delighted, satisfied, and others dissatisfied, annoyed or even enraged!
The retail store is a theatre and the shop floor is the stage where the retail associates must provide everyday solutions to customers. Handling customers can sometimes take a toll on retail associates. However, retail associates must remember that how they deals with such a circumstance would determine whether the customer would remain with the brand or choose to move to a competitor. The retail associate job is even more specially challenging over the telephone because all the customer gets to hear is an associate’s voice. It is only the power of words and the tone that will help make the situation better. And words they say, have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.
But, how do you deal with irate customers without getting irate or angry yourself? Here are a few tips that will help in aiding such customers:
- Listen actively
The first few seconds of a call usually give you a heads up of the customer’s mood and his query. If you know that it is going to be one of those calls where a customer is agitated, then adjust your self and have your notepad ready. Go ahead and just listen. SIMPLY LISTEN. As the customer shares his poor experience, ensure that you listen actively. Make a note of the keywords like dates, time and names. Nothing aggravates the situation more that getting incorrect information.
- Never interrupt
An angry customer is at the peak of his frustration when he calls. But, how you handle the first few minutes of the call will determine whether that frustration peaks or ebbs. One sure shot way to ensure that you ebb the agitation is to not interrupt when the customer is speaking. Remember that the customers might be calling only to vent. Be calm and composed when they are venting out their experience, acknowledging throughout. Only after they have given you an account of the complete situation must you begin speaking.
Also, many a times, the harsh tone of the customer might prompt you to speak up to defend yourself or your employer. However, you must resist the temptation, maintain your integrity at all times and never answer back. While it might be tough, this is the best antidote to an irate customer.
- Be kind and empathetic
One winning tip for all retail associates is to never take a customer’s complaint personally. Remind yourself that the customer isn’t angry with you, but with the situation he/she is in. Being empathetic and respectfully acknowledging the concerns during the conversation will help improve the customer’s anger. Take a minute to step into the customer’s shoes; you might have reacted in the same way if you had to face a similar situation.
As mentioned earlier, it is important to remember that all the customer can hear is your voice. The body language, the genuineness, the warmth – all of this is conveyed to the customer only through your voice. Empathetic words such as ‘I understand’, ‘I’m sorry to hear that’, and ‘I will try my best to help you…’ will make the customer ease up a little.
- Repeat and Confirm
Once the entire complaint has been noted and understood, genuinely apologise and then reconfirm the details with the keywords. This will act like a summary and will instil the confidence that you were actually listening, eventually helping the customer to calm down. From there on, it would be just a discussion between two individuals trying to sort out a problem and finding the best solution.
- Solve the problem
When you have heard all that is to be heard, take complete ownership of the issue and make the customer believe that you will offer him the best possible resolution. Offer possible options to solve the problem along with the respective timescales. If you have not been able to resolve the complaint by yourself, offer a call back. Make a genuine effort to resolve the grievance and follow through.
There might be instances when you will have to liaise with other departments to resolve a problem. It might be tempting to wash your hands off a problem and transfer the grievance to another department. However, you must never make a customer feel that you are passing the buck or that you are incapable of handling the situation. This only aggravates the issue further.
- Ensure a happy closing
In the end, along with being thankful to the customer for his patience, ask him if there would be anything else that he would like to discuss. This will leave a positive image of you and the company. The customer would certainly go back happy, despite being irritated and enraged when the call started.
- Follow up
Remember that you have not closed the loop until you have followed up with the customer and ensured that his problem has been resolved. A follow up call or an email is a great way to cement your relationship with your customer. It just goes on to show how much you care for the customer.
Handling irate customers is a part and parcel of the job profile for any retail associate. The above tips will ensure that you resolve such complaints effectively.