7 Steps for Handling Distraught Customers

This post is written by Salil Gupta, Managing Partner at Vcare Technology, a provider of contact center services to online retailers.

Did you know that 48% of customers who have had a negative customer service experience are likely to tell 10 or more people about it?

On the other hand, just 25% of customers who had a good experience are likely to say something positive about your company, according to Harvard Business Review.

Given the fact that customers who have had a bad experience won’t hesitate to get on a megaphone (See: social networks) to tell others, it is important to make every effort to convert distraught customers into happy customers. After all, your customers are the reason you’re in business, right?

Examples of distraught shoppers in online retail can vary from a customer who is experiencing problems logging into a site to a customer who didn’t receive an gift order in time for Christmas despite placing it by the retailer’s stated cutoff deadline.

As a call center manager or agent, how do you field these calls? Do you have a concrete plan of action that has been communicated to the staff on the frontlines?

Here are seven steps based on our experience managing call centers for online retailers that can help convert a distraught customer into a happy customer:

  1. Proactively reach out to the customer. Online retailers should be proactively reaching out to customers to inform them of their order status and fulfillment and shipping estimates. In certain cases where the customer’s order is delayed, online retailers should be reaching out to customers with a revised delivery date.

  2. Listen to your customer. When an irate customer calls to complain, your customer service representatives should be patient and try to get to the root of the reason why the customer is upset. Be human. Care that a surprise for someone’s wife was ruined or a gift didn’t make it in time for the holidays.

  3. Empathize with the Customer. Once the representatives understand the reasons for customer dissatisfaction, they should empathize with the customer and say “If I was in your shoes, I would feel the same.”

  4. Apologize to the customer. Next, the customer service representative should apologize to the customer for the bad experience and assure the customer that they are willing to work collaboratively with the customer to reach a solution.

  5. Provide the customer with a legitimate explanation. In most cases, customers expect to hear a reason why the retailer was not able to deliver on the promise. Your representatives should be able to investigate and provide reasons for non-delivery.

  6. Make it right for the customer. In certain situations there may still be time left to get a package expedited for delivery by Christmas or a birthday. The order may not have reached the customer for various reasons — perhaps they selected a slower shipping method. In these cases, the rep should make an exception to the retailer’s policy and ship the same order to the customer using expedited shipping so that the order reaches before milestones such as Christmas or a birthday. This is a common tactic of companies known for great service.

  7. Offer other promotions. If you cannot make it right for the customer at this current time, your reps should offer other promotions such as 50% off the current or future order, a gift certificate or free shipping for future purchases.

If you are able to follow these seven steps, chances are high that you will be able to convert your distraught customers to happy customers.

Salil Gupta is Managing Partner at Vcare Technology. Vcare provides contact center services to retail companies. Gupta is an entrepreneur at heart and got his MBA from Babson College in Entrepreneurship and Finance, and is also a licensed CPA. He loves reading and traveling the world. Gupta lives in New Jersey.