Has it happened to you? The phone call from an upset customer. Or your boss gets the phone call and tells you to fix it. Worse yet you walk into a meeting with the customer and he unloads on you. How do you handle the angry customer?
Every Sale Has Three Possible Outcomes
When we meet our customer’s expectations they have a “moment of truth”. The desired outcome from a sale is a “moment of magic” where we exceed the customer’s expectations. But, oh my, the customer experienced a “moment of misery” when we failed to meet their expectations. The challenge for the great salesperson is to convert those moments of misery to moments of magic or at least moments of truth. Great salespeople are mediators when dealing with an angry customer
The First Step Is To Clarify The Concern
When I managed a sales office for a safety products distributor, occasionally one of the customer service reps would rush into my office. An angry customer had called to complain about an order. I asked two questions: “Did anyone die?” and “Was production stopped?” Usually the answers were “no”. So then I would say: “It should be an easy problem to solve.” It is very important when helping an angry customer to be sure you completely understand the problem from their point of view. Great salespeople ask enough questions to completely understand the angry customer’s concern. By getting to the heart of the problem, the great salesperson shows empathy.
Verify The Customer’s Concern
In my experience there are always two sides to an angry customer’s problem. The customer’s expectations and how my company met those expectations. Great salespeople have good relationships throughout their company. If the customer is upset about a missed delivery date, check to see what was promised. When the customer received the wrong items, find out why. Maybe the contract terms were met by your company but misunderstood by the angry customer. Great salespeople find out how and why an error occurred.
Satisfy The Angry Customer
Once the great salesperson knows all there is about the problem from both the customer and seller, they set about solving the problem. Dick Musto was the VP of Engineering for manufacturing company I worked for. We designed, fabricated and installed custom equipment. Since each project was unique there were occasional opportunities for moments of misery. Dick Musto’s question for the salesperson was: “What is the customer’s solution?” Often that was the best approach to solve the problem. And, as Dick Musto reasoned if the solution worked, the customer’s ego was stroked and a moment of misery was turned into a moment of magic. Great salespeople are empowered to find acceptable solutions for angry customers.
The Customer Is Always Right
Except when they are wrong. Misunderstandings do occur. When we were shopping for new car we test-drove a model we really liked. Unfortunately it had already been sold. But the salesperson said he could get one “just like it” from a neighboring dealer. When the new car arrived it was “almost just like” the one we test drove. The price was a little less because of the missing features. We wanted the roof rack as seen on the car we test drove and the weatherproof floor mats. Adding those features to the car we were offered would have increased the price more than we wanted. The dealer offered concessions and we agreed to pay a bit more to get the features to make it “just like” the one we tested. Complex sales are made with comprehensive contracts. How the customer interprets the contract may differ from the seller’s intention. While the seller is “legally justified” in their position, great salespeople work with the angry customer to create a moment of magic.
After The Problem Is Solved Follow Up
Great salespeople know that future business depends on how well the angry customer feels in the end. Was the final resolution a moment of magic? Has the seller’s company made the changes necessary to prevent a reoccurrence? Great salespeople go the extra mile to be sure the relationship will continue for future business.
Don Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford