“Houston, We Have a Problem…”

Breaking the Bad News To Your Customers

You’re having a pretty good day so far. Your customers have been friendly and their transactions have been fairly routine. You’ve answered all their questions and solved all their problems. They actually seem pleased with your service when they walk away or hang up the phone. If only you could always do exactly what the customer wanted – how much easier your job would be!

But we all know that it’s not that simple. There are times when you just can’t do what the customer wants. Whether due to the lack of or wrong information, company policy, or just the basic fact that you can’t work miracles, there will come a time when you must switch hats and become the bearer of bad news. The sign of a real pro, however, is how he or she handles a situation where everything isn’t so simple. Here are a few tips which may neutralize your customers’ reactions and will help you keep your professional edge:

  1. Acknowledge their feelings about the news. And let them know that cooperating with you is the way they’ll get their needs met. Although doing things your way may not be what they wanted, they’ll see that you’re still trying to solve their problem. “I’m sorry this is more paperwork than you expected, Mrs. Jones. But let me show you how to complete this form. Then I can start to process your request right away.” Or, “I realize this isn’t what you had in mind, but this is the fastest way to address your questions.”
  2. Tell them what you can do for them. Limit the focus of what you can’t do. Immediately after you acknowledge their feelings, tell them how you will help them. “Let me find out where you need go to handle this.” Or, “I could issue a temporary access card for you to use this weekend.”
  3. Offer options. Sometimes there’s more than one way to handle your customers’ transactions. Anticipate their needs and have information ready for them. “If you don’t want to wait now, you can call our 24-hour service line when you get home. I’ll give you my card with that number.”
  4. Find solutions; don’t point out their mistakes. Blaming the customer just adds fuel to the fire. So don’t say, “You didn’t fill out the form completely.” Instead, tell them what you need them to do. “If you’ll just finish pages 3 and 4, I can start to process your claim.”

People come to you with certain expectations: They want you to answer their questions or solve their problems. Often, they also have an idea of how that will happen. When you have to deviate from their expectations, take a deep breath, smile, and use some of these tips to help make the transaction as smooth as possible.

Posted by Pam Wyess in Customer Service.

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