No matter how hard you work to keep your customers satisfied, you're bound to come up against one or two who have a negative experience with your product or service. It may not necessarily be your fault, but it's your job to address the customer's concerns and give them a reason to come back to your brand.
The key is to provide above-and-beyond customer service. It's important to listen to and empathize with the individual in order to show them that your company is committed to keeping their business. Below, seven entrepreneurs share the tactics and techniques that have worked for them in assuaging an angry customer.
It may seem like common sense, but Eng Tan, founder and CEO of Simplr, reminds companies to respond as soon as possible, if not immediately, to an upset customer.
"The longer that customer has to wait, the angrier they'll get -- and the more likely they are to write a bad review," says Tan. "A quick acknowledgement and show of concern will go a long way."
Reflect, validate and empathize.
Rachel Beider, CEO of Massage Outpost, reveals that she and her team use what's known as the Imago dialogue technique to assist with upset clients: This method involves three steps: reflection, validation and empathy."
"We mirror what the client is saying, so they feel they've been heard. We then validate their feelings, so they feel understood. Lastly, we use empathy so they feel we're on their side," she explains. "Most people just want to be heard and feel understood, even if you disagree."
Proactively 'fix' the problem.
When a customer contacts you with a problem, it's best to proactively fix it to the best of your ability, says Aaron Schwartz, co-founder and COO of Passport. This may mean issuing a full or partial refund, offering a free month of service, or researching the answer to their issue so they don't have to.
"We never say, 'We're thinking of doing X, does that work for you?'" Schwartz adds. "Instead we take the action and ask, 'What more can I do to help?'"
Active listening is an essential skill in managing a team, and it's just as important for providing good customer service -- especially when someone is upset.
"Too often we focus on what to say next, rather than listening," says Matthew Podolsky, founder and managing attorney at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. "Give them time to express their concerns and then let them know you understand and sympathize with their frustration."
Podolsky adds that you should ask the customer questions, too. This lets them know you're taking their concern seriously and are actively looking for a solution.
Find the breakdown in communication.
Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms, says that in most cases, a bad experience is the result of a misunderstanding. She recommends going straight to the heart of the issue to find where it originated. This will often reveal a communication gap.
"Overcommunicate that gap and let the customer know where you went wrong -- and turn them back to your side," she says. "Clarify without making excuses."
Remain calm and ask them what they want to happen.
If the No. 1 rule of customer service is that the customer is always right, the second rule is to remain calm. Andrew Schrage, CEO of Money Crashers Personal Finance, says keeping a level head, even in the face of an outraged customer, will have a naturally calming effect on them.
"Give them the time to explain exactly what they're upset about," he says. "Ask what they feel is an appropriate solution and do your best to make that happen, although a little compromise might be needed on their part depending upon that solution."
Get on the phone.
In today's era of social media, customers feel very comfortable airing their frustrations from behind a keyboard. Colbey Pfund, co-founder of LFNT Distribution, recommends reaching out to them personally on the phone to resolve the issue.
"It is never our goal to upset a customer, so we will do what we can to fix the situation," says Pfund. "Sometimes there is nothing that can be done and people seem to just want to be upset, but most of the time if you call and explain your side -- and listen to theirs -- you can work things out."