Handling complaints successfully
If you are like most of the sales professionals I work with every day, you have had lots of experience in handling complaints. Chances are you have a natural ability to calm people down and things always work out for the best. Alternatively, you are one of those people who dread getting that phone call or having to attend a meeting where you will have to defend your performance or that of your organisation. Did you ever wish you had a watertight system that allowed you to handle customer complaints effectively every time, and with the client perceiving you to be the consummate professional? Well, look no further. I can present you with a simple system that if adopted, and executed naturally, can leave you handling complaints at a higher level of competence and with a lot less stress.
(1) The first thing you need to do is listen. Just listen. Say nothing, do nothing, defend nothing. Just listen. Use your whole body to prove to the client that you are honestly trying to understand their issue. Even if you are aware of the problem already, just listen. This is the first time that the person will have a chance to tell someone what his or her problem is.
(2) I suggest that you paraphrase what the client has just said to you. This serves two very practical purposes. Firstly, if you can accurately summarise the key issues the irate person will know that you were listening. In addition, you will have the benefit of understanding what the real issues are that need to be addressed. Begin this part by saying something like “ I fully appreciate why you might be so upset” Or “ It’s not surprising that you should be so mad”. This can take the steam out of their argument in less than 5 seconds.
(3) Develop rapport with the person throughout this process. A lot of salespeople tell me you find it hard to do this as you are faced with a tirade of abuse. Nevertheless, take some time now to review the parts of rapport building. What tone is the person using, what body posture have they adopted (match it if at all possible) what words are they using a lot (can you use some of them in your responses), do they have an accent and at what pace are they speaking (slow or fast). Remember, we are not trying to mimic, merely trying to reflect aspects of their behaviour or speech.
(4) A key task at this stage is to vent emotions. Skilled salespeople achieve this by asking simple questions which allow the person to get all the anger or excitement out, emotions that are preventing them from being open to anything you are saying and stopping them from making rational decisions. “You sound really mad”, “you look very annoyed” or “ I get a real sense that you are not very happy”
(5) The next important step is to ask the client the following question “What would you like me to do”? Chances are you know already what is required to fix the problem. By asking the client, however, you are allowing him to say what has been on his mind all along. If their request is a reasonable one, then by agreeing to it you are positioning yourself and your organisation as a responsive and customer-focused organisation. The final result is that you don’t have to compromise your position as much as you thought.
(6) If you feel you are really up against it, I suggest you present the following Statement. “ I couldn’t be more sorry, I feel really ashamed” In most cases, the client’s ego will have been compromised. A customer with a bruised ego is not a pretty sight. By saying this sentence as presented here, you achieve two things. Firstly the client feels that the balance has been re-established and secondly that s/he has got through to you.
This six-step process should be practised in a safe place, well in advance of that difficult encounter. The highly charged environment is not the place to practice this for the first time. Once you are comfortable with this approach, I can guarantee you will succeed in regaining lost ground in a shorter space of time, with less hassle and less cost than may have been the case to date.[/box]