Take the RESOLVED Approach to Unhappy Customers
So you know you need a plan for dealing with unhappy customers. But what should that plan entail? To help you remember what you should do when you’re staring into the bulging red eyes of an infuriated customer, try this handy acronym: RUN. Just kidding! Actually, the acronym is RESOLVED. It stands for the following:
R: Respond to the person who is upset
People need to be heard. They need attention. They get cranky when they feel disrespected, rushed, or processed. They don’t like to be put aside, treated like a number, or otherwise handled roughly. If you’re dealing with an upset customer, it’s imperative that you respond to him in such a way that he feels heard, attended to, and respected. Take care of the person first and the problem second.
E: Empathize and apologize
When faced with an upset customer, you must stop whatever you’re doing and put yourself firmly in his shoes. Job #1 is to empathize. To empathize means to focus on someone else’s emotional state — in this case, your customer’s. Relate to the feelings the customer is expressing. Dignity and genuine concern are the watchwords here. If it helps, imagine the person you’re dealing with is a beloved grandparent.
Then apologize. Take responsibility for any errors made and say you’re sorry for the inconvenience, frustration, or other negative result. When a customer is upset, odds are he wants someone to own the mistake. So own it, even if it’s not actually your fault.
S: Seek to solve the problem
When dealing with an upset customer, working to solve the problem is critical. First and foremost, that means cleansing your speech of the phrase “It’s our policy.” Second, be aware that the customer probably doesn’t care what caused her problem. All the customer wants to know is what you’re going to do about it.
If you can, take your time developing a solution. A number of studies have suggested that often, the second or third solution you come to is best. When possible, suggest multiple solutions to the customer, saving the one you think will work best for last.
O: Open your mind to the customer’s proposed solution
Often, the best solutions come from the customers themselves. They’ll frequently devise solutions and alternatives that you never would have considered. Even better, their solutions are commonly less costly than your solution may have been. Don’t be afraid to ask what would make the customer happy. Only rarely will customers suggest something truly outlandish.
L: Listen intently
When dealing with an upset customer, your best bet is to shut up and listen. If you fail to listen, you can rest assured that you will make the situation worse. This type of listening is hard. Doing it well requires a deep well of focus and patience. It means suspending your prejudgments and prejudices. To listen in this way, you must be okay with paradox and ambiguity.
To listen intently, you must practice what counselors and therapists call active listening. With active listening, you must concentrate deeply on what is being said, giving your undivided attention. It’s not enough to simply hear the message; active listening requires you to pay attention with all of your senses. When you listen in this way, upset customers will recognize it and begin to calm down.
V: Verify the solution
When you have a proposed solution — whether it comes from you or the customer — take a moment to verify that it’s what the customer wants. This shows the customer that you won’t move forward unless you’re both in agreement that the situation has been resolved to his satisfaction.
If you find the customer is not in agreement, it’s likely that you rushed one or more of the previous steps in the RESOLVED process. Do not despair! This gives you an opportunity to further analyze the problem, which will yield a better solution for the long term. Simply go back and redo the steps.
E: Execute the solution
When you and the customer agree on the solution, you must act immediately. Don’t let anything get in the way of immediately executing the resolution you’ve reached. If you can text or email the customer a few minutes after your conversation to update her on your progress, then so much the better. Show her that you are completely on top of things!
If you can’t solve the problem straightaway, keep the customer constantly informed of the progress you’re making (even if there is no good news to report). Bad news is better than no news.
D: Document the problem
Now that you’ve solved your customer’s problem, it’s time to take steps to prevent that problem from ever happening again. That means documenting the customer’s complaint. This step enables you to track the complaint, maintain a history of it, learn from it, and identify and eliminate preventable problems. It’s imperative that you (and your organization) have the discipline to record customer concerns each and every time one occurs.
Documenting a problem can be as simple as jotting down notes about your conversation or entering them into a more formal customer database. Either way, you want to provide adequate information about the complaint to the part of the organization that can fix the underlying cause of the customer’s problem. Thorough documentation of the problem conveys that this is a credible concern, not just some passing observation that the organization can ignore.