February 11, 2022

Teach Your Employees How to Deal with Upset Customers

Teach Your Employees How to Deal with Upset Customers featured image
images of a person holding a paper in front of their face with an angry face drawn on it.

When your business depends on representatives selling products to customers, what types of skills matter the most for success?

The ability to make cold calls is valuable. So is the capacity for upselling. Turning ambivalent prospects into buyers and shoppers into loyal customers are useful practices, but what about dealing with unhappy clients?

If your sales training program doesn’t contain guidance for dealing with upset or angry customers, you’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle. Retaining the business of unhappy shoppers is a vital stopgap against lost profits, and also a way to safeguard the company’s reputation.

Despite the uncomfortable nature of dealing with irate people, it’s something your team members have to learn. Training content that focuses on the retention of unhappy clients is a useful piece of a complete and comprehensive approach to customer experience and the sales process in general.

Increasing Customer Retention with Great Sales Experiences

The sales environment has taken on new characteristics in the digital era. In practical terms, this means the customer experience has never been more important. When a client becomes unhappy, a similar business is often a click away. Furthermore, an irate customer can use social media or public review sites to lash out at a company’s reputation on the way out the door.

These digital-era trends underline a fact that has been true for years: Creating positive experiences for customers is an irreplaceable part of building a successful sales organization, one that organizations of all kinds should focus on.

Writing for Inc., entrepreneur Andrew Thomas called customer service the “secret weapon” for a business. Businesses that succeed at creating positive experiences have an advantage, one they may not properly quantify because it seems natural. However, when customers become unhappy and stay that way, the difference is clear.

The difference between a happy and angry client is stark. Thomas cited his own experience at a company that displeased its early adopters with a poor product offering, at which point those irate shoppers caused damage to the brand’s reputation. He and his team quickly learned how to deal with irate customers, which allowed them to build the company’s good name back up as the product improved.

Where Sales and Customer Experience Meet

What’s the connection between customer experience and more traditional measures of sales performance and success? According to a Training Industry article by learning organization CEO Jeff Seeley, there is a major connection between making sales and creating great customer experiences: employee soft skills.

Soft skills include empathy and communication abilities of all kinds. While these are sometimes seen as inborn talents separate from hard, technical knowledge, they can be taught, and they are essential factors in a sales employee’s effectiveness.

Seeley added that some sales organizations discount or underestimate the value of soft skills and the customer experience in general. These companies become too consumed in improving sales numbers through technology-based enablement. While it is a good idea for businesses to embrace digital sales and customer communications, it is employees’ empathy and communication skills that will forge bonds with clients.

If your business takes the time to develop a team of employees who are sensitive to customers’ concerns and needs, and can connect with them on a deeper level, you are positioning the business for sustainable success based on loyalty.

A soft skills focus helps drive long-term value, with buyers turning into brand advocates. Customers are less likely to become angry in the first place when they’re dealing with a sales team that is sensitive to their needs. When negative experiences do happen — and they inevitably will — employees will be ready to remediate the situation.

man pointing at a happy face, among choice of sad, neutral and happy faces

Learning How to Deal with Upset Customers

Acknowledging the importance of soft skills is an important first step in creating a sales team that can handle angry customers. Then, it’s time to think more specifically about the types of abilities needed for dealing with upset clients, as well as the everyday practices to guide employees through these interactions.

Defusing a confrontation with an unhappy customer means entering a situation that has already begun to go wrong. After all, people don’t typically become upset or angry with a business for no reason. With the right approach, representatives can quickly get the interaction back on track before any lasting damage occurs to the client-business relationship.

Some of the best practices for employees in these situations involve getting into the right frame of mind, while others are concrete actions sales representatives can take to bring customer interactions back onto the right track.

Serving Unhappy Customers: The Right Mindset

Any conversation between sales representatives and customers stands a better chance of success when employees are in the right frame of mind. Coming into an interaction worried, distracted or expecting failure can lead to a spiral of negativity.

With that in mind, the following are a few of the recommendations put forth in Hubspot’s guide to dealing with difficult clients:

  • Enter with no expectations: At first glance, the concept of having a “beginner’s mind” or “zen mind” can seem daunting, but it is actually simple: A person doesn’t make any assumptions or jump to conclusions. By sticking to this principle, an employee won’t become aggravated because of something a client doesn’t know. Instead, the representative should be pliable and willing to give the caller a chance to explain themselves.
  • Don’t take anger personally: Anger tends to lead to hurt feelings and more anger. A client who is unhappy with a company can say things that are hurtful. Hubspot’s guide recommends company representatives should remember frustrated customers are not attacking them as people — rather, they are attempting to feel more control and express their discontent. Seeing things this way helps prevent interactions from turning competitive, and helps employees guide their customers to solutions.
  • Be fearless: Fear is a natural emotion for salespeople to face when a conversation with a customer heads in a negative direction. After all, it’s easy to get caught up in all the bad things that can happen. Losing a customer has financial consequences and can cause reputation damage. With that said, tense decisions made out of reflexive fear are rarely the best choices. Employees who build their soft skills and learn to be calm have a better chance of effectively communicating with their customers and reaching solutions.

As anyone who’s had a bad experience dealing with a company knows, the employee’s approach to solving the problem makes a major difference in the outcome. Even if the business can’t deliver 100% of what the customer is looking for, a calm, helpful and respectful representative can keep the situation from worsening. This real impact is a reason to work on employees’ mindset and approach.

Serving Unhappy Clients: The Right Actions

Once company representatives have assumed the proper approach to serving difficult customers, they can further develop their abilities. This means learning useful day-to-day practices applicable in a variety of difficult scenarios.

A few of the most practical and helpful tactics to use with unhappy customers, as shared by Indeed, include the following:

  • Use names to make interactions more personal: One of the common refrains when unhappy clients are dealing with companies is they don’t want to deal with automated prompts, they need to speak with a “real person.” Employees can provide empathy, understanding and human touch that digital prompts can’t. A representative can underline this fact by using names — the customer’s and their own — instead of remaining anonymous and just calling the client “sir” or “ma’am.”
  • Listen to customer concerns and repeat them back: Listening is a key skill for any sales or customer service representative. Hearing what an unhappy customer needs or wants is a critical step in finding a relevant, tailored solution instead of simply offering generic reassurances. Indeed explained that employees can periodically repeat back what they’ve learned. This shows the customer the rep is listening, and also helps the caller correct any misunderstandings.
  • Say thanks and follow up: Ending a conversation with an irate customer is a critical moment. Expressing gratitude is an important part of customer service skills. Rather than demonstrating irritation with the interaction, the salesperson should make it clear that the client was right to voice their concerns. Indeed suggests not just signing off well, but also reaching out to the customer after the fact, to make sure any recommended suggestions are working as intended.

Conduct when dealing with unhappy customers is one of the most challenging parts of an employee’s demeanor to train. After all, it can be hard for even an experienced professional to remember the right thing to do in a tense environment. This is just another reason why training is so important. Companies that get these interactions right stand out from less-prepared competitors.

Training Your Sales Personnel in Customer Support

A well-rounded selection of sales skills training courses prepares your team to handle all parts of customer interaction, from starting off conversations on the right foot to calming down situations that have gone wrong. These training materials demonstrate it is possible to build soft skills and make a valuable addition to an employee education strategy.

Even within the narrow field of handling difficult customers, there are multiple approaches to take, and therefore a range of highly specialized training courses available. For example, a class around emotional intelligence and handling stress can equip a representative to be calm during difficult conversations, while a module about overcoming objections is more about actionable strategies to use during sales negotiations.

It’s possible to select training courses by role or industry, and to choose between longer and shorter programs. The unfortunate truth is that difficult, emotionally charged situations can arise in workplaces of all kinds, so it’s always worth preparing customer-facing employees to deal with negativity in a calm, productive way.

The end results of improved soft skills training can reverberate through a company. Better resolutions to encounters with irate customers may impact everything from the brand’s reputation on social media to long-term audience retention.

Using Modern Sales and Customer Support Training Methods

It’s normal for businesses today to employ team members around the world, contributing remotely or from a variety of offices. This adds logistical complications to the old-fashioned approach to employee education, which involved hiring an instructor to lead in-person sessions.

Online, video-driven training courses help modern organizations avoid the expense and logistics challenges of live instruction. By investing in digital sales training for your personnel, you can deliver important soft skills to the entire team, even if your team is scattered across multiple regions and time zones. These courses are also available on-demand for new employees, helping you bring your latest hires up to speed.

Difficult customer interactions pose a challenge to any organization’s sales and customer service teams. With the right training materials, however, employees can respond effectively to these situations, scoring wins for their companies.

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