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Tips for Handling Unhappy Customers

Keep Your Cool with This Helpful Advice

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Written by International Sales Manager, Joe Holz

Everyone will eventually have an unhappy customer. Sometimes it may be for a legitimate reason. Sometimes it may not be, but we will all have to deal with this situation from time to time. A way to help you keep your cool and manage the situation successfully for everyone involved is to use the CIA method. No, we don’t mean batteries and jumper cables, but Control, Influence and Accept. This approach is commonly used and discussed for many situations people run into in their personal or business lives and can help you better frame the situation in your mind.

The idea is based on the fact there are always things you can control in a situation, things you can influence, and things you just have to accept. By clearly defining these in each situation, you can save yourself time and anguish by not trying to control something you have no way of controlling or accepting things you could possibly change or at least influence.

Let’s take the example of an unhappy customer with a fountain that has just failed. Their level of “excitement” may vary, but they have a real issue that needs to be solved. What can you control in this situation? What can’t you control, but possibly could influence? What do you have no control or influence over and just have to accept?

Unhappy Customers – Control, Influence & Accept

Each situation will have it’s own unique aspects, but here are some common things that may be involved with the above example and where they most likely fall in the CIA approach:

Customer’s Attitude – You DO NOT have Control over someone else’s feelings. It is a losing battle trying to think otherwise. You may be able to Influence those feelings with how you react in the situation, but this is something you just need to Accept. By accepting that they are upset or disappointed, you can acknowledge that you understand what they are feeling and move on to helping solve the problem.

Unit Failure – This one can be a bit tricky as it could fall into a couple categories. In the end, you really don’t have Control over a seal wearing out and causing a failure. That will happen. You could Influence this by offering routine maintenance and scheduling preventative seal replacements, but that isn’t solving the current problem at hand. This again, is something you will have to Accept to solve. It would be wise to use your Influence to get them on a maintenance plan to prevent future failures though.

Response Time – This is something you absolutely have Control over. The speed at which you return the call or email is something you have total Control over and will often help reduce the customers temperature with the situation. Even if it may take some time to get to the site, troubleshoot, and/or repair, contact them quickly and be clear with your plan and intentions on how to deal with the issue. Once you have told them the plan, STICK TO IT!

Plan of Action – This part of the resolution is something that you most likely have strong Influence over. Just because the customer demands a brand new unit for their 7 year old failed fountain doesn’t mean you have to Accept that and depending on the manufacturer (and it better be Kasco), you may not have Control over the final resolution. However, you can Influence the customer by presenting some clear options of repair or replace. You can also Influence the entire situation by setting the expectations early. Don’t tell them the unit will be replaced at no charge if you don’t know for sure that it will or you are not willing to make that happen on your end. Also, don’t tell them it will be fixed in a day unless you are sure you can deliver on that promise.

We all hope to only have pleasant customer interactions and do all we can to help ensure our customers are taken care of and happy. However, we will all eventually get that customer that isn’t. Knowing how to identify what you can Control, Influence, or just have to Accept in a situation will help you better handle it and lead them back to the happy end of the spectrum.

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