A well informed customer may sound demanding, questioning everything you say, making you will feel that neither you or your answers are good enough. When you are getting chewed up for a service failure, it is easier to get defensive or say the wrong thing, provoking the customer even more. 

Intuition says that if a customer is complaining about a problem we need to hurry up and fix it so they will feel better. Our intuition is wrong! 

The CORRECT RESPONSE is NOT INTUITIVE.  Actually the opposite is true! First validate the person and then validate the problem. In my communication skills training I teach effective ways to take control and resolve customer situations by not only meeting, but exceeding customer expectations. Here is an example of what you can do: 

Listen with empathy and patience. Acknowledge the customer’s feeling. Only after you make them feel “heard”you can proceed to resolving the problem. You may be amazed that by that time, they may think of their problem as much smaller.

There is A SECRET in validating the customer effectively. The secret is that you need to acknowledge customer’s frustration and defuse it within a SPECIFIC TIME FRAME. You need to make sure that you respond within the first 3 minutes!

The first 3 minutes of a conflict determine the outcome of the conversation 96% of the time, according to substantial research by the Gottman Institute. 

As soon as you hear the stress in the customer’s voice get ready to intervene. Immediately validate and acknowledge their distress. Even with the most chatty client don’t take longer than 2-3 minutes to deliver your first reassuring comment. Then continue with listening and validation, interjecting reassuring comments, until all of the client frustration is gone. 

Look for our next post, with specific phrases that make situations with angry customers a win-win.