When working in a field service situation you have a lot of balls to juggle at any one time. Not only do you need to be mindful of your customers' needs and requirements, you also have to be aware of and deal with any external influences that might adversely impact outcomes for you or your clients.
Sometimes all you want is for your customers to leave reviews. But inevitably for all engineers, things do go wrong from time to time. These errors might occur through negligence, unclear client instruction or unpredictable external events. Whatever the reason for errors, they often lead to customer unhappiness.
Before you deal with the whys and wherefores of what led to the issue, your first priority should be to placate and hopefully satisfy your angry customer that you are doing your best to sort the situation out.
Customer anger is damaging to a business in both the long and short term. In the short term you risk losing a valuable client, in the long term you may well notice a loss of good name and reputation as stories get shared and distorted.
Customer service is a key factor for field service engineers and prospective new clients will be quick to pick up on any negative messages, particularly those that are shared on social media. We look at 10 life changing ways to deal with angry customers in a way that will ensure their ongoing custom and goodwill:
1. Prevent the customer complaint in the first place
By far the most effective way to preserve your good name is to stop issues arising in the first place. While we recognise that this is not always possible, there are some key factors that will lead to a reduction in errors.
Whether a mistake has been made or not, in order to help everybody involved understand what has happened, you should ensure that systems are set up to track each step of your engineer's work using photographs, paperwork and customer signatures.
This type of paper trail will not only serve to inform if issues do occur, it will also work towards preventing corner cutting and rushed work.
2. Hire the right people
Bringing the engineers with the right competencies to a task is a key management skill. Customer complaint issues are far more likely to arise if staff are under-trained or under-experienced. Monitoring staff capabilities and providing high-quality professional development are key factors in ensuring a successful field service.
3. Stay calm
However angry a customer might be and however aggressive their behaviour, the situation is not going to be helped if you also lose your temper or panic. This is sometimes easier said than done and it pays to have a few anger management strategies up your sleeve.
4. Listen to your customers
No matter how many answers you might feel you have to a situation, your angry customer is not going to be placated until they feel that you have listened to and understood their story. Active listening techniques can help them to appreciate that you are listening to them. Try to nod or make noises of agreement as they speak, allow them to finish their sentences and once a calmer point is reached try to paraphrase their issues as you understand them.
5. Be mindful of your customers' needs and feelings
Anger doesn't come from nowhere and even if a customer's reaction seems excessive, there will be genuine reasons that he or she feels strongly about a situation. Try to appreciate the whole context of what has happened. It may be that an urgent deadline will now be missed or that money will be lost through having to let a client down. Show that you sympathise but be aware of appearing disingenuous.
6. Empathise with your customer
Empathy is easier if you take time to understand the whole story. Try to imagine yourself in your customer's position, think about how you would react and what steps you would expect to see taken to put the situation right. Make it clear through actions, not just words that you understand what they are going through.
7. Always tell your customer the truth
Lies and untruthfulness will always find us out eventually. If telling the truth about a situation is going to contravene company policy or put someone else in a difficult position, or if you don't yet know what the truth is behind what has happened, try to avoid the issue or explain that you need to gather more information before you pass comment.
8. Remember to smile
If your customer is angry he or she won't be smiling at you. This doesn't mean though that a smile from you won't go a long way to calming a situation down. We pick up on non-verbal clues more than we think and a smile when your customer is maybe expecting a retaliatory reaction may well disarm a tricky situation.
9. Offer an apology
Even if you don't think your engineers or operatives are at fault on this occasion, an apology will go a long way to pouring oil on troubled waters. If at all possible, make a general apology about the situation without implicating anyone in particular or appearing to disagree with your customer.
10. Take appropriate action
You will be amazed how quickly client confidence returns if you demonstrate that you are prepared to take action to resolve a situation. Losing a customer and your reputation is not worth the cost of an appropriate refund or discount.
If you follow these tips next time you find yourself in a confrontational situation with an angry customer you will almost certainly experience a more pleasant outcome. Of course, this will not always be the case and if it isn't we can only suggest that you keep smiling and stick with the issue until both parties are satisfied.
Check how using a job management software can help you to deal with customers: