On Monday, we discussed how employees react to mistreatment by customers. Why should you, as a leader, care? First, mistreatment leads to high turnover which leads to higher costs and loss of institutional knowledge. Second, if abused employees decide to strike back, as demonstrated in the study presented on Monday, it can harm the company’s reputation and lead to more unhappy customers. This creates a customer-employee vicious cycle where more angry customers mistreat employees who engage in more revenge tactics that produce even more angry customers, and so on. To break the cycle, leaders need to train customer-facing employees on how to handle upset customers but also have clear policies on what employees are allowed to do to compensate the customer and what to do when customer behavior crosses the line.
Although it sounds simple, think about why a customer reaches out to a company to complain. We think there are 2 main reasons:
- Customer expectations were not met. A product broke, a delivery was late, a representative was rude, reservations were lost or overbooked, or maybe promised inventory wasn’t available. Customers had a certain expectation of product or service performance or what their experience should be, and that expectation was not met. In most cases, the relationship can be repaired if the customer service rep can use the right technique and tactics or make necessary concessions.
- Customer feels he/she was lied to. Trust has been broken. The customer feels that the salesperson was dishonest or willfully withheld information. The customer service rep is an agent of the organization and no different than the person that lied in the eyes of the customer. This type of complaint is much more difficult and there may be nothing the customer service rep can do to completely repair the relationship. The approach in dealing with this type of complaint may require a much more personal touch, keeping in mind that the customer will probably not come back but in the best case, won’t bad mouth the company
For the first type of complaint, angry customers may use several tactics on customer service reps (see infographic below). They may vent (e.g. “I’ve been a customer for 10 years, and let me tell you….”), bully (“I’m going to tell everyone on Facebook/Yelp….” Or, “I’m going to email your CEO about this”), or make it personal. For each of these scenarios, there are some common ways of dealing with them.