NEW YORK — When a customer calls or comes into a business to complain, an owner can use the conversation to cement rather than lose a relationship. Nancy Friedman, who runs The Telephone Doctor, a customer service consulting firm, has some tips on how to talk to someone who's unhappy with a company's service or product:
—Listen for the customer's name, and make sure you repeat it during the conversation.
—After customers explain why they're calling, say, "My apologies," which is stronger and sounds more sincere than "I'm sorry." Tell the customer your name, and get the customer's phone number in case the call drops. Also say, "I'm glad to meet you, even if it's by phone."
—No one answering the phone should say, "I can't help you." If the owner or employee can't assist the customer, the response is, "I am going to find someone who will help you."
—Take notes while the customer is speaking. Being able to repeat what they've said shows you're serious about listening and helping.
—If the problem isn't something that's easily fixed — for example, replacing a defective product or issuing a refund for it — ask the customer to help you come up with a solution that will satisfy them.
—If the customer is angry, don't say, "I know how you feel," or "Calm down." Try, "I can imagine how upset you are — I would be too." If the customer is yelling and/or swearing, a good response is, "Mr. Smith, I can handle your problem. I'm not able to handle your screaming at me. Let's find a way to work this out."