Gift 1
- 21 Customer Service Situations ... and One Good Thing to Say to Each Unhappy Customer.

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Customer: “I am very dissatisfied because_______________.”

You: “I understand. Tell me: What can I do to make things right for you?”

Strategy: Don’t superimpose your vision of what would make things better. Ask the customer what would make things better, then do as she requests.

2. Customer has multiple complaints.

Customer: “I am unhappy because of A, B, C, D, E.”

You: “What’s most important to you to fix first - A, B, C, D, or E?”

Strategy: Break the dissatisfaction down into its component parts, ask the customer to prioritize the complaints, then fix them in that order.”

3. Customer is dissatisfied but cannot articulate why.

Customer: “I think [your company/your product/your service] is inferior.”

You: “That’s interesting. Tell me more.”

Strategy: Do not get into an argument or try to convince the customer he is wrong. Instead dig deeper to find out the real problem, which is usually small, specific, and fixable.

4. Customer has unrealistic demands.

Customer: “I want premium quality and I want to pay the lowest price.”

You: “We can give you the premium model or the lowest priced model. Which would you prefer?”

Strategy: When the truth is stated logically in a nonadversarial manner, most customers recognize they are being unrealistic, that not everyone can have everything, and they must be willing to pay for what they want.

5. You cannot gauge the customer’s reaction to how you are handling the complaint.

You (after stating a suggestion or solution): “How does that sound, Mr. Jones - good, bad, or terrible?”

Strategy: The customer will always answer this specific question, forcing them to open up and give feedback. If they answer “bad or terrible,” you ask: “What would we have to do to bring it up to ‘good’?”

6. You are stuck in your dealings with the customer and cannot move forward.

Customer: Restates the complaint point you have been unable to resolve.

You: “Okay. Why don’t we set that issue aside for now and come back to that point later?”

Strategy: Go on to resolve the other points. Then, when the unresolved issue is the only remaining point of contention, it will seem smaller and less important, and therefore be resolved more easily.

7. You want to make a proposal you are not sure the customer will agree with.

You: “Mr. Jones, is there any reason we shouldn’t _______________?”

Strategy: If you simple state the request (“Let’s do X”), it is easy for the customer to say no - and once he does, you must engage in argument to change the decision. If you phrase it as a question (“is there any reason we shouldn’t?”) the customer cannot say no without provided a logical reason, which he probably doesn’t have. So he is likely to respond “No” (meaning he doesn’t have a reason) which is the same as agreeing to the request X.

8. Avoid yes/no propositions; instead give the customer a choice.

Wrong: “Do you want to go ahead and extend the service contract?” Reason it’s wrong: The ease with which the customer can say no.

Better: “Which do you prefer - a 1 or 2 year service contract extension?” This question makes “no” an illogical response, and therefore a reply you are less likely to hear.

9. Telling a customer you cannot provide a particular product or service she wants or needs.

Wrong: “We don’t do that.” “We can’t do that.” Reason: Customers do not stay with vendors who say no.

Better: “We don’t do that, but let me show you where you can get it.”

Strategy: Refer your customer to another vendor who can provide the product or service that you do not. The customer doesn’t care that you don’t offer it, as long as you can help them get it.

10. You want to negotiate a kill fee or partial payment that will be acceptable to the customer yet is one you can live with.

Customer: “What would your kill fee be?”

You: “Well, let me ask - what do you think what we’ve delivered to this point is worth to you?”

Strategy: The customer will name a dollar amount, telling you what they view as an acceptable settlement. Usually this will be equal to or more than what you would have charged, so you satisfy the customer while saving money. If the fee they name is too high, explain why this is so and negotiate a better deal.

11. The customer is short-tempered or closed-mouthed with you and you suspect is irritated, but does not come out and say so or why.

You: Betty, let me ask - did I do something to offend you?”

Strategy: You cannot deal with any problem until you bring it out in the open and get the other person to identify the problem they have.

12. You or your company made an error.

Wrong: I will notify our _________ department and have them take care of this.

Right: I will take care of this.

Strategy: Customers feel uncomfortable when you seem to be passing the buck elsewhere in your organization. They are more comfortable when a real person - you - takes personal responsibility for correcting the defect.

13. The customer keeps asking basically the same question even after you have answered it several times.

Why the are doing it: They either didn’t understand or more likely need reassurance that what you are telling them is true and accurate.

You: Give the answer to the question as fully as you can, and then say: “Does that answer your question?”

Strategy: This says to the customer (a) that you have given a complete and full answer and have left nothing out and (b) after this conversation, no ambiguity about your position or actions should remain.

14. The customer disputes a fact you know to be correct.

Wrong: “You are wrong, Mr. Customer. Here is why.”

This doesn’t work because customers do not like to be told they are wrong. This phrasing is adversarial.

Right: After the customer disputes what you have said and states his position, you say: “But, how do you know?

This forces the customer to explain their position to you. If you are right, they will discover it as they try to give a logical defense of their position and find they cannot.

15. You are going to state a term or condition that you anticipate the customer will object to.

You: “Our policy is [state the term or condition].”

If the customer objects to something you already stated, reply: “That’s our policy.”

This works because people tend to dispute individual decisions and situations they do not agree with, but are less inclined to dispute something that is a universal rule, law, or policy.

16. The customer complains.

Wrong: “I don’t agree.”

You: “I understand.”

Strategy: “I don’t agree” is wrong. You may not agree with the specific complaint, but “I don’t agree” sounds like you are disputing the customer’s emotion of feeling unhappy - which you do not have a right to do. “I understand” does NOT mean “I agree” - it just means you understand that the customer is unhappy and has a complaint, which is what they want to hear.

17. You have to tell the customer “no.”

Mistake: Just telling the customer no.

Example (at a gas station): “That pump is closed.”

Strategy: Always follow a no with a yes. Always try to find a way to give the customer a helpful alternative.

Example: “That pump is closed. But if you pull up to the next pump, I can fill your tank there.”

Another example: A retail video game store:

Wrong: “We don’t have that game in yet.”

Better: “We don’t have that game in yet. It will be in sometime next month.”

Best: “We don’t have that game in yet. It will be in sometime next month. Would you like me to reserve it for you?”

18. You don’t know how to respond to a customer complaint, question, or address.

Strategy: Write down what the customer says. Repeat it back to them to make sure you have totally understood. Then say: “I don’t know, but I will get back to you with the information.” Then tell them when you will get back by and do it.

19. The customer has multiple unreasonable or difficult-to-fulfill demands.

After the customer expresses all complaints or demands, repeat back what he said.

You: “So, Mr. Jones, you want A and B, right?”

Next, do not outright refuse any of the requests - A, B, or C. Rather, ask a question that makes the customer realize they cannot all be complied with and that he has to decide.

You: “Which of these is most important to you - A or B?”

When the customer selects A, promise to deliver A, then explore what you can do to fulfill B. But be clear that while A is a promise, B is a maybe. That way, if you deliver A only, he will feel you have met your promise, but if you deliver A and B, he will feel you have rendered extraordinary service.

20. Customer objects to the price points out he can get it cheaper.

Customer: “I know someone who will [sell the product to me/do the job] for less money.”

You: “Then why are you talking to me?”

Strategy: Price is not the key issue. Quality or service is. If the customer were happy with the low-priced vendor’s quality or service, they would NOT in fact have called you.

Low-priced vendors frequently offer inferior quality or service; that is why they are low-priced. “Why are you talking to me?” in effect says to the customer: “You and I both know the low-priced vendor you are referring to cannot satisfy your quality or service demands, so a direct price comparison between our offer and theirs is simply not valid.”

21. Both you and the customer are unsure of what the customer wants done to resolve a problem situation.

You (after customer finishes talking): “So, what do you want to happen next?”

Strategy: This forces the customer to either accept conditions as they exist or give you specific instructions for problem resolution. Once you have the specific instructions you can carry them out to restore customer satisfaction.


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