We're very lucky at RotaCloud. We have an excellent product with very few bugs, and our software is also full-featured enough for most of our customers.
Therefore, most of our support interactions are friendly and understanding from both sides. We rarely come across angry customers.
However, it's still smart to be prepared for those occasional times when people do get upset.
At my old technology retail job, we used to encounter several unhappy customers each day - so we were well-practiced in dealing with anger and dissatisfaction - but at RotaCloud, we hardly ever have this experience, so we can be a little out of practice!
You might be in the same position. You have a great product or service, but aren't really prepared for when that one angry customer decides to kick up a fuss.
Here are five things to remember when dealing with unhappy customers.
1. Don't tell them they're wrong
The customer is always right. This is an old saying, but it's true. If they're not using the software in the way it is intended, don't just say "You're doing it wrong."
Okay,you can say this - but the magic is in the wording:
"Let me show you a better way of doing this."
2. Stick to basics (to begin with)
If somebody calls you about not being able to do something in your software, don't jump into a complicated technical explanation.
Instead, say something like: "For technical reasons this isn't possible for us to implement."
If they continue to push for an explanation, you can increase the level of technicality in line with the level of their insistence.
If they retaliate by saying "I have no idea what that means," simply tell them that is the reason for the limitation on the software and, unfortunately, there isn't anything you can do about it.
At the end of the day, if the customer wants to be able to do something that isn't technically possible, your software probably isn't for them anyway - you'll lose their business regardless.
3. Don't allow them to be unreasonable
There is a difference between being assertive and being unreasonable.
Being assertive means pushing the conversation forward until it reaches a resolution. Being unreasonable means simply not wanting to accept the situation as it stands.
Allow the customer to be assertive. Answer their questions as well as you can and try to find a solution.
However, if you give them the best solution you can find and they say it isn't good enough, you are allowed to fight your corner.
At my previous job, we had a customer who had come in store with a software issue. We offered to back up and restore his device, which would take about half an hour.
He said he didn't have half an hour, and that it was our fault that his problem hadn't been solved.
We explained to him that the solution to his problem always takes half an hour, and that this timescale was out of our control.
Still, he said that the solution wasn't good enough for him, and that our store was useless.
The best thing you can do in this situation is to say: "Look, we've offered you the best and only solution we have to your problem. Whether or not you take that solution is up to you, but we have done our job in finding the solution and offering to carry it out. We're not responsible for your device not working if you have refused to take a solution for reasons out of our control."
You shouldn't have to deal with customers who are being genuinely and fully unreasonable. If there is merit to their argument, then that's fine. But if they're being argumentative for its own sake, you should give yourself permission to shut them down.
4. Let them go
If a customer says they want to cancel their account, just do it. Don't try to offer them a deal, or ask them why they're leaving before you start the process.
Absolutely ask for feedback afterwards (maybe send out a survey by email), but don't try to change their minds. People hate it when a cancellation phone-call takes 40 minutes because the support rep keeps offering them deals they don't want.
Obviously, if they say they're considering cancelling, you can try to persuade them to come back - but once they've made the decision, people find it hugely annoying when you try to change their mind.
5. Keep your cool
The purpose of any support interaction is to solve the customer's problem. If their problem is that the software isn't for them, then cancel their subscription. If you can solve their problem and keep them on board, then that's great.
However, you also have to consider your reputation. Your actions impact the company's image, and people talk a lot more about bad support than good support.
Remember: you are representing the company. Deal with everything reasonably and fairly. If someone is being rude and you fight fire with fire, you are only adding to their dissatisfaction, and giving them fuel with which to damage your product in the eyes of others. Losing one client gracefully is much better than losing a bunch because you lashed out.
Instead, take a deep breath and calm down before responding if you want to stand any chance of defusing the situation!
The underlying theme here is about remaining reasonable in the face of unreason. Some customers can be less than polite - you always have the option of being the better person.
How do you manage difficult clients? Share your experiences and advice in the comments section below.