Marketing is the lifeblood of every business. It is the fuel which keeps the engine running. Without customers, the business would close shop.
We often think about this aspect of business as the activity of bringing in customers. While this is true, it goes beyond that. The core term which captures all that marketing is about is the word Value. And this refers to the benefit which the firm or company or business provides for those it serves. It is the heart of every business.
The popular paradigm for discussing marketing is the marketing mix (shown below), which shows the interaction among the 4 concepts of Product, Price, Promotion, and Placement.
Central to all these concepts or activities is value. Determining the nature of product or service to be provided, how it is to be communicated to the target market, the price at which it is to be offered, as well as the means by which it is made available to consumers – all revolve around the core benefit which the business is providing. Keeping this concept central helps us think clearly and make better customer-oriented decisions.
Have you ever had a client or customer who was boiling with rage and was threatening to bring down your entire business? Perhaps you interact with customers over the phone. You might have received a call from a bitter customer who felt he was cheated by your company. How did you handle such a challenge?
Within Customer Service, it is usual to refer to such customers as ‘Irate customers’. And it is helpful to know how to handle such cases before they arise.
First, it is important to know that an irate client is not necessarily an ‘evil’, ‘troublesome’, or ‘aggressive’ person. In many cases, they are simply ordinary individuals who became deeply infuriated about a certain act of service failure. And such cases often arise after repeated failures from the organization. It is also sometimes the case that the person is simply a very expressive or demanding customer who will not overlook poor service.
So how should we respond?
- Don’t tell the person to calm down. It will only worsen the situation.
- Gently apologize and try to assure the person that she has your attention. If she’s a walk-in customer, find a way to pull her aside and sit with her to discuss the problem.
- Allow her to verbalize her feelings and frustrations (even if some of it is not directly related to the issue at hand) and listen completely.
- Remain calm and don’t take her utterances personal; she is merely venting over ‘poor service’.
- Apologize sincerely and patiently explain what you will do to resolve the issue. Keep in mind that all the customer really wants is ‘an answer’.
- Follow through promptly with the resolution.
- After the incident is resolved, follow up later with a call to ensure she is truly satisfied. This will also help to preserve the brand image of the business. Remember that one dissatisfied customer will complain to at least five people about the poor service she received (and that was before social media!).
- If you encounter an irate customer who is too difficult to handle, it is wise to escalate to a superior. But if the client becomes violent, please alert a security official. Violence is never justified.
Most cases, however, do not warrant enlisting a third party. With a dose of empathy, a cup of tact, and a spoonful of empathy, you can resolve the situation and get your customer smiling again.