Turning angry customers into loyal fans

Turning angry customers into loyal fans

October 23, 2013
Turning angry customers into loyal fans

Here she comes! Maybe her name is Gladys, maybe it’s Tom, Tiffany, or Niles. But whatever his or her moniker, this person’’s cranky, irascible presence is bound to send even the best, most dedicated customer service professional running for cover!

Customer experience experts and bestselling authors Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest joined Zendesk to present a webinar, offering seven strategies for cementing customer loyalty, based on their extensive interviews with companies from a variety of industries that provide stellar service.

1. In your upcoming webinar, you will be discussing ways of dealing with a tough customer, who you’ve named Gladys. What would you recommend customer service professionals keep in mind when they see a Gladys coming their way?
Gladys is the reason caller ID was invented—to give you a moment to set your mood. Seriously though, today’’s customers know their power. They can pull out an electronic device and search online review sites to find your competitors in seconds. After living through some tough economic times, consumers know the power of their dollars and have little tolerance for poor service. It’’s important to remember that challenging customers who bother to complain are emotionally invested. Most don’’t. They just find someplace else to spend their money. That’s good news. When you treat a tough customer well, you allow them to become vocal advocates that spread good news about your company.

Look for the gift in your Gladys and you’ll find it. Consider what could be the positive side of her difficult behavior. For example, she’’s not bossy; she’’s decisive. He’’s not rude; he’’s willing to say what’’s on his mind. She’’s not cold; she simply needs time to establish trust. When you see the good in Gladys, you’re much more likely to bring out the best in her.

2. To prepare for your book, Who’s your Gladys: How to turn your most difficult customer into your biggest fan, you researched real world cases studies of tough customers. What was one of the more shocking stories you heard?
There are so many, it’s hard to choose! In one case, a man who was attending a workshop asked for his own mini-refrigerator in the conference room so he could eat cold snacks throughout the session. We also heard about a frail bed-ridden elderly woman who told her moving team that they’’d better do a good job, or she’’d kick their butts. Our personal favorite is Gladys from chapter one of the book. She was filled with spit and vinegar from the moment she met her service provider, though she ended up being such a vocal advocate that she was responsible for a marked increase in the company’’s profits as they grew their customer base of seniors in retirement communities.

3. Even the best people can be a “Gladys” on a bad day. What should we do when we catch ourselves being cranky with a customer service agent?
We conduct a lot of training around emotion management skills. It starts when you learn how to soothe yourself when you feel your own negative emotions starting to come to the surface. We use a fantastic little formula: E + R = O.  E stands for the events that happen that are out of your control. An example might be trying to return a product when you’’ve missed the 90-day window for return that’’s the store’s policy. You may want them to make an exception, though if you lash out in anger, your service provider may take it personally and be less inclined to want to help you. R is for Response, and that’’s where your power is. Suppose you responded by saying, ““I’’m really angry about this, and I know it’s not personally your fault. Would you be my hero and help me find a workable solution?”” Finally, O is the Outcome. Your Response (expressing your upset feelings in a non-threatening way that engages cooperation) can completely alter the outcome, perhaps resulting in a creative solution that allows you to exchange the item, get a store credit, or just possibly get a refund. When you focus on your Response, you have an amazing amount of power over the outcome.

Watch the recording of our Zen Master webinar with Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest: 7 strategies for turning angry customers into loyal fans, and for more insights, see Why are my customers angry?

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