How to handle an upset customer

September 1, 2011

Knowing how to avoid upsetting a client, and knowing how to properly handle an individual who feels wronged, can help you avoid customer service mistakes in the future, build a more loyal customer base, and actually increase sales and profits.

Port Richey, FL-Everyone knows "The Golden Rule": Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To that list you can add, courtesy of Anthony D. Record, LDO, a "Silver Rule": Promise less, deliver more.

Cause and effect

"If you trace it back far enough, you'll usually find something that-although it doesn't necessarily justify their actions- certainly served as a catalyst to them. So the main goal is to recognize some of these catalysts and avoid them," he noted.

According to Record, the major reasons clients and patients become upset include:

These are all examples of avoidable upsets that can cause a small problem to escalate into a major situation.

Defusing the situation

Although avoiding upsetting a customer in the first place is the best solution, it's probably not realistic to think that your practice will never play host to an upset client or patient. Record said there are seven major things customers want when they're upset.

Knowing these seven items can help you defuse a tense situation quickly and amicably.

The seven things upset customers want:
1. To be taken seriously.2. To be treated with respect.3. Immediate action.4. Compensation and restitution. "I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me that a customer has said, 'I've been back here to get this problem addressed three times. Are you going to give me gas money?'" Record said. "I ask if that's really such an unreasonable request after a customer has taken his or her time to return more than once to correct mistakes that have been made."
5. Someone to be reprimanded. "I'm not advocating dressing down a member of your staff in front of the customer or other staffers," Record said, "but you need to assure the customer that the matter has been handled appropriately."
6. To be an advocate for others. "If you can take steps to show the person that something like this will never happen again, that will sometimes calm them down," Record said.
7. To be listened to. As Record pointed out, "Too often we become defensive and try to jump to solutions before we even know the whole story."