You and I work in the people business: we sell to people, we buy from people, we support people, and people are unpredictable critters. There is going to come a time when you have an unhappy customer. And there are certain ways to handle this situation. And there are certain ways not to handle the situation. In this episode, I’m going to give you some clear strategies to handle it when a client interaction or sale goes south.
We cannot escape having an unhappy client. Especially when you’re growing, the more people you serve, the more people who are buying from you, the more customers and clients that you have, the more of the likelihood that somebody is going to be unhappy, because we’re dealing with people, and people are unpredictable. People have their own agendas and some people feel a lot of power behind their computer screens. And they love nothing more than to lash out and belittle the recipient of the email forgetting that there’s someone else on the other end of that email or phone call. Let’s talk today a little bit about how to handle it when things start to go south with a client.
One thing that I’m going to ask you to do and I want you to reach through whatever device you’re using to listen to me today is I want you to pinky swear that you’re not going to react from a state of fight. When someone lashes out at us because they’re unhappy about something, our very first natural reaction is to go into defensive mode. The thing is, if someone’s reaching out to you from a place of anger, or from a place of frustration, you are actually in the place of power in the conversation. It’s up to you how you react to that reach out.
I’m on a hockey team and I show up every week, we lost miserably last week by the way, and our coach had the most unbelievable analogy of how hockey works and it made me think about exactly what we’re talking about today. So a puck is an inanimate object, it’s just this black plastic round disc that will sit stagnant until somebody hits it with their stick. Whoever hits it has the first control of where it’s going to go. When you are receiving the puck, you are in control because you are choosing how to receive it and then where to send it. And that is exactly what happens in one of these conversations. When somebody’s unhappy about something and they write to you a scathing email or complaining email, the ball then is in your court and it’s 100% up to you how you receive the complaint. And then what you do with it. The very first thing you are going to pinky swear is you are not going to react when you’re in that defensive mode.
You’re going to read the email or listen to the voicemail or the review that’s left and then you’re going to stop and you are not going to react right away. You are obviously gonna feel whatever you feel. It could be hurt, it could be anger, it could be frustration, you might want to cry. Your reaction is yours. Nobody needs to see that reaction. But you don’t react from that space. When you react from a place of calm and clarity and confidence, you have the upper hand, always. And so the very first thing is we’re going to stop and breathe. Then you’re going to sit on it and you’re going to move away from the device that you have, consuming that piece of content through. If it’s your phone, put your phone down, walk away, if it’s on your computer, shut your computer down, walk away, and you’re just going to sit and you’re going to shift into a place of curiosity. Your absolute natural reaction is going to be defensive.
“Well, that’s not right.”
“Well, that’s not true.”
“But they did this.”
That defensiveness is normal, that’s you protecting you. And we are really lucky to have that defence mechanism in us. What we don’t want to do is respond from that place of defence. What we actually want to do is get curious. We want to get curious about the other person.
Sometimes that other person is just simply a troll and they get their jollies out of belittling others, literally, they sit there behind their computer, looking for opportunities to slam down somebody else so that they can feel better about themselves. Those don’t deserve any response at all. They have no place in your being and they have no place to get into an online back and forth because they will keep going. And so we want to shut it down right away.
If it is a customer who has a complaint about either your service or your product. Please do not respond via email. Do not respond via text. Do not respond via Facebook Messenger, if you can, call the person. I know it’s scary. I know it’s overwhelming. But when you can shift to that personal conversation, you’re up-levelling the conversation to a place where you are in power. And your job on that conversation is just to be curious.
“Hey, so and so I just received your email about (insert the complaint.)”
“I’d love to know more about it.”
“Walk me through what caused this.”
“The last time we spoke you were you know, this was your reaction. What changed until today?”
You’ll notice that even in my tone, I’m not being defensive. I’m simply being curious. Because chances are, there’s more that’s happening behind the scenes than that person is letting on. If we respond to an email from that place of defensiveness, things are going to escalate and they’ll escalate fast. When we pick up the phone and have a personal conversation from a place of curiosity, all of a sudden, it gives us space to find a resolution that will satisfy both parties. It evens the playing field, it puts you in the upper hand, and it allows the conversation to diffuse and just be between people.
Now, not everybody is going to be evolved enough to be able to have that conversation. And you get to put the boundaries of how you will be spoken to and what you’ll accept. If the person is using profanity and swearing against you then you simply get to say “I will not be treated and spoken to this way. I can see that you’re angry, when you’ve calmed down, reach out, let’s talk about this” and hang up. You don’t have to put up with any abuse my friend, that is not your role in life. You are not somebody’s verbal or physical punching bag. So put that boundary in place and establish how you will be treated.
Nine times out of ten, that person on the other end will so appreciate you reaching out and just needs to be heard. And so you hear them out without a “Yeah, but” if you’re wondering what a “yeah, but” is, it sounds like this.
“The thing that I ordered was late?”
“Yeah, but I sent it on time.”
“Well, it arrived too late for my need.”
“Yeah, but that’s not my problem.”
A “yeah, but” is when you are defending each and every action. Let’s acknowledge what their frustration is. If something arrived late, let’s look into it and figure out why. There’s always a solution to fixing whatever problem or complaint there is. But it’s really hard to do when you are hitting that conversation puck back from a place of anger, or defensiveness, that’s just lowering the bar. And to channel one of my favourite women in the world. Michelle Obama, when they go low, we go high.
Do not be inflammatory, do not challenge their intellect or their experience. Just simply acknowledge how they’re feeling. Explain your side of the story and sign off by wishing them a good day. That’s it.
You can change the whole path of a complaint by shifting it into a people conversation. And the more times you have a people conversation or a challenging conversation with someone who’s not happy with you, the better you’ll get at it. This is not a personal attack. It is an attack against a system that went wrong within your company. So if we can simply look at it through that lens of curiosity, and ask is there some truth in what they’re saying? Do we need to take it on the chin and accept responsibility because, in fact, they are 100% right to complain? And that does happen. There are some very legitimate complaints. So we acknowledge it, and we do our best to come to a mutually acceptable solution where both parties leave feeling good. It is possible to make this happen.
As you know, people are unpredictable- so let’s make something predictable for you. If something goes south or someone does something, or complains, or sends you a nasty email, you rise up and you pick up the phone and you talk to them about it and come to a resolution. There are some people who do not want a resolution, they just want to vent. There are some people who are going to have buyer’s remorse and are going to find every reason why they can’t work with you. Move them on, let them go. They are not your clients. You do not need their money in order to be successful or to be okay. train people how to treat you and treat others with the same respect that you would like to be treated when they go low. You, my friend, are going high. Pick up the phone.
Resources From This Episode
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