Mar 142007

It is often the case that companies believe that once a sale has been completed it is time to move on to the next customer. Yet, the truth is that the customer’s interaction with the company has probably just begun. Customer service professionals, post-sales managers or salesperson in charge of their own client relations know that their customers might (and probably will) at some point be less than pleased with the service they are receiving.

Whether the complaint is caused by a real or perceived deficiency or under-performance it is time to allow one’s superior customer service skills kick in. It is not only a matter of ethics and responsibility, for experience shows that gaining a new customer is more expensive than retaining a current one.

Propriety and business acumen? Follow these steps to speak to displeased clients:

*Listen and understand: you don’t know the issue without hearing it fully.

*Take notes: write the issues raised by the other party down for review and future reference. The notes will be better reflections of the situation than one’s memory.

*Ask questions: in order to fully understand the situation ask questions and do not rely on conjecture

*Repeat: go over the issue and paraphrase in order to make sure that you have understood the origin of the problem, the required next steps and your customer’s request.

*Acknowledge: let the client know that you have heard and understood them. Verbalize this.

*Facts not feelings: stick with factual information and avoid hysteria and ego. Use precise language and stick to the facts with an impartial tone of voice or body language.

*Inform: tell the person that you would like to help. Also acknowledge that you can hear the concern, sorrow or regret in their voice or can see it on their face.

*Coordinate: work with them within legal and legitimate means to remedy the situation. Outline this (again factually) and obtain buy-in

*Update: keep the person informed and be upfront if the issue will not be resolved right away. People are often reasonable if treated with deference.

The above steps are valid and should assist significantly if followed; yet the emphasis should be on taking the sensationalism and personality out of the picture. Do not take it personally if a customer is upset and take pride in rectifying the situation.

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