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Angry Customers: Kill 'Em With Kindness

We’ve learned something over the course of 9 years at VerticalResponse: killing people with kindness will get you everywhere. Here are 3 examples that have worked for us.
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We've all had them, frustrated customers that come into your place of business or call you with a head of steam, ready to go ballistic. They have a script with what they want to say, and they are about to blame you for everything going wrong in their day.

The first thing you probably feel like doing is reacting. And I mean not positively. I know; I've been there.

But we've learned something over the course of 9 years at VerticalResponse. Killing people with kindness will get you everywhere. Here are 3 examples that have worked for us.

Answer the Call

We deliver email marketing for thousands of small businesses, and as a result there are people who periodically receive an unwanted e-mail from one of our customers. Usually it's not malicious; it's a mistake. Since VerticalResponse is very transparent about who we are, they can easily call or email us about the issue. And by that time, some have built up a pretty nice head of steam. Our reaction? We respond to that recipient within 24 hours, call the customer who sent the email and determine the cause of the issue fast. Then we get back to that recipient with complete information, and a resolution where appropriate. Most of the time they respond positively; they can't believe someone actually answered them, and these previously aggravated customers actually turn around and tell their friends to use us. It's a no brainer to answer the call.

Be Transparent & Communicate

Software can be delicate. Most of the time it's your friend, but every now and then, technology can turn ugly. It might not work the way you expect it, at a particular time when you need it most. When our services are interrupted, we feel the pain as much as our customers do. If you took a camera through our offices when our services are down, you'd see each and every department cringing and scurrying to get the issue resolved.

During that time our customers are calling us, Tweeting about it, some even erupt. There is only so much we can do as we're diagnosing and fixing the issue—but the one thing we are during this time is transparent. We communicate with our customers through our blog and through Twitter and Facebook; we try to publish an update every 15-30 minutes. In my opinion even no news is news. And in the words of Jason Fried, Author of Rework, we say "We're sorry" because we truly are.

Take the High Road

We've been at tradeshows where people come up to us and tell us how much they love our competition. We tell them that's great, we're glad they're happy and we love them too! The more business in our space, the more it validates us as a company. We encourage these booth visitors to keep emailing so their businesses will grow and flourish too. I'm not sure that's what they thought our reaction would be when they comment on the competition, but they usually leave us with a different opinion, a more positive one.

So it might be tough, but the next time someone comes at you raring to go, bite your tongue and kill 'em with kindness. You might be surprised at the reaction.

 

Last updated: Jul 8, 2010




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