Most business owners have dealt with a frustrated or upset customer. How do your team members or customer service reps react during this critical moment of truth for your business?  A moment of truth is “anytime a customer comes in contact with your organization and thereby forms an impression of it.” (Jan Carlzon) These impressions formed over time ultimately set your business up for lasting success or great failure.  The good news is that you have control over your organizations customer service approach.

I was recently enquiring about a product at a local retail store.  I enquired with the sales associate to see if they carried the product I was looking for. After he seemed to be helping me for several minutes he suggested he would be right back to answer my question and drifted away to his computer before assisting other customers. After waiting for several minutes, I walked back over to the service counter to see if I could get his attention. I assumed that he was going to continue to assist me after he finished with the customer he was speaking with. However, after he had finished with the current customer, he continued to call up other customers and did not come back to answer my original question.  I stepped in and asked if he had been able to look up the information I was requiring and the sales associate stated, “oh right, I forgot about that. We don’t carry that product right now.” As that was all that he said to me, I was frustrated by the way this situation was handled and will most likely take my business to a competing store in a future situation.


Sound familiar to something you’ve experienced in your own customer service examples? A good strategy to resolve customer conflict will hopefully leave the customer with a positive memory of your encounter and an advocate of your brand.  Remember that in many situations, customers don’t think of themselves as customers – they think of themselves as people who need your help! Use these 5 steps to skillfully take charge of negative customer situations and to salvage a potentially disastrous encounter.

1)   Focus on the situation only: Engage with the customer directly, giving them your full attention and solid eye contact.

2)   Let them vent: Hear the customer out before you step in. If you interrupt they may need to repeat what they have already said.

3)   Empathize with the customer:  Perhaps the most important step in resolving this conflict is letting your customer know that you “feel their pain.”

4)  Summarize their situation: Customers needs to see and hear that you understand their level of frustration.

5)  Problem Solve:  Agree on the problem, brainstorm options, agree on the solution and follow up on commitments made.


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