Angry Client? Listen and Keep Your Cool

We've all been there. One minute you're feeling productive and energized and then BOOM - out of nowhere comes an angry client phone call or email that blows up your day. The accusations, the indignation, and sometimes the salty language of a disgruntled person can get anyone's back up. Quickly.

Getting defensive is a normal but counterproductive reaction. On the other hand, if you resist the temptation to strike back, the problems will melt away - and that disgruntled person may just turn into a brand evangalist.

Here are 5 key ideas to help you regain control and remind your clients why you are the brand they know and love: 

1. Attitude

Reframing an unpleasant situation moves you from feeling attacked to feeling empowered. Though never a pleasant experience, when you adjust your attitude an aggravation morphs into an opportunity to prove yourself and what your brand stands for. I believe in Sisarina's mission, am deeply committed to it, and know the value we bring to our customers. That fuels my approach to whatever complaint is being directed to us.

No need to resign yourself to losing a client or accepting a browbeating.  Instead challenge yourself and drive your reaction with the question: "How can I turn this around or at least improve this person's perception?" Believe in your ability to "take a sad (or mad) song and make it better."

2. Detach

Stay calm, stay professional. Remember this person is not your enemy, and their feelings are not personal. Try to see beyond the hostile energy they might be reining down on you. Even if you can't understand what's motivating them, suspend judgement and listen.

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
Ernest Hemingway

3. Listen

Being heard is a very powerful and basic human need. Just listening immediately begins to defuse a tense situation. Stay open to this person's point-of-view, even if you know they're wrong. Resist the temptation to formulate a counter-argument, or rebuttal. Keep your entire focus on this person, their words, and what might be behind them. Are they under pressure, or on a deadline? Has there been a series of problems and this one small thing is just the last straw?

4. Focus

Focus on what you can do, not what you can't. Now that you've heard them, you can quickly evaluate what's feasible given the circumstances. There is usually a temporary or partial remedy that's immediately available. Jumping into action mode lets the client know you're there to help them solve the problem.

There are times when the only option is to listen and empathize. Under no circumstances should you become someone's punching bag. A polite reminder that the conversation is no longer productive is in order. Then exit stage left!

5. Examine

As Ben Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Figure out how to improve your processes or communication to avoid similar blow-ups in the future. If complaining is chronic from a particular client, sometimes it's best to part ways. Identifying your velvet-rope clients can reduce strife and restore harmony.

Do you have stories of customer service victories or tips? Do tell!