In Winning Lifelong Customers with The Five Abilities®, I advise, “Being dressed down can dress you up.” In the heat of the moment, you can overlook that an angry customer is talking to you. They want you to know why they’re angry and they’re more open and direct. When this happens, you have a great opportunity to listen and learn.
In the book, I talk about Rob—a great sales professional. We worked together at Microsoft and years ago we were in Europe for a first meeting with the CEO of a very large customer–he was unhappy with Microsoft. We were expecting a tense meeting, but we didn’t give him nearly enough credit.
The meeting was at 8am, which was early for us as we’d flown in from the US the night before. Even so, we arrived 10 minutes early, introduced ourselves to the receptionist, and sat to wait for our meeting. At 8:15am we asked the receptionist if the CEO knew we were here—she said yes—we sat down. At 8:30am we suggested that we could come back another time to which the receptionist said that he would be ready soon. We were in this country only to meet with this CEO so we had nowhere else to be—we waited. At 8:45am we told the receptionist that we were leaving and that we’d reschedule the next time in the country which would be in 2-3 months. She said, “Oh, he’ll see you now.”
We entered the CEO’s outer office where we waited another 20 minutes before the CEO entered. We barely shook hands when he started his monologue on many topics, some fair, some clearly meant to anger us. Other than a few attempted interruptions, he went on for 30 minutes without letting us get in more than “uh-huh.” Even so, his fair criticism was clearer than ever before and we took detailed notes.
I was the ranking Microsoft person and at 30 minutes, I stopped the CEO and said, “John (not his real name), you’ve given us good feedback and all we can do is show you that we can do better. But today, there’s nothing we can say that is going to change your mind, so let’s call it a meeting. Thanks for your time.” At that point, we got up, said thank you, and headed to the door.
The CEO said, “Wait, I didn’t say we couldn’t work together.”
We stopped and he continued, “You took notes. Tells me maybe we can work together. Come sit.”
Honestly, that relationship remained rocky but it was better after that meeting because in the CEO’s words, “You listened. I didn’t’ expect that.”
Now, I know this result isn’t going to happen every time but the components are simple. An angry customer is talking to you. What do you do when a customer is talking? Listen. Learn why he or she is so angry because understanding why is the first step to a solution. The very worst thing is to become defensive or angry. First, if the customer has launched into a tirade, they won’t hear or see anything other than that you are arguing. Second, if you interrupt their thought you’ll miss the nuggets that tell you why they’re angry.
Angry customers are talking to you. Listen and learn so you can create solutions. At a minimum, you’ll cool the situation—at best you’ll win a lifelong customer.
Tell me about your experiences dealing with angry customers. What best practices work for you?
©2017 Rick Wong, The Five Abilities® LLC