Face it; no one enjoys confrontation with angry customers especially if you don’t feel equipped to address their needs.
I find that many organizations we work with have a desire to do service recovery but a glaring lack of skills at the front line. And that is where it’s needed most. After all, it’s the front line that spends the most time with the customer.
We teach 4 steps to service recovery including: anticipate, acknowledge, apologize and amend (act). I find that, with training and practice, class attendees do a good job of demonstrating key behaviors and phrases needed to field complaints once they are brought to their attention. But I’ve discovered that many miss the visual cues indicating that a customer is becoming dissatisfied. This is the ideal time to intervene. Before the person escalates. On second thought, they may not be missing the cues at all, but rather, they’re ducking to avoid conflict.
During one exercise in our service recovery class, I show a slide of a woman whose arms are crossed with a stern-looking expression. I ask the class, “If this woman was sitting in your waiting room would you move toward her or away from her?” The overwhelming response is that they would steer clear of her. Many express their fears and reluctance to approach someone who looks irritated because they fear the wrath of an angry customer. When I advised that they should approach the customer, one class attendee said, “Why invite trouble when they might never say anything?” Ah. That is the opening I wait for. The answer is because they may not say anything to you, but they are very likely telling others AND it is effecting their overall experience. Plus, early intervention will prevent a bigger problem.
Ignore even a minor flesh wound and it could become a nasty infection with long term effects. The same applies to service issues. Address them promptly to prevent a bigger issue.