Some people do all they can to avoid upset customers or just allow them to “ruin” their day. We may feel that we’ve done our best and don’t deserve to deal with an upset customer. Here’s an abstract idea: Upset customers offer yet another opportunity to gain a stronger relationship with that person.

In the past, I worked in public accounting where I would help small and medium-sized businesses with their tax issues and financial planning. During the first year, I was surprised the first time I found business owners who were truly surprised and upset when they’d find out they owed tax, even after finding credits and deductions to help. I could’ve taken the stance that it was their fault for not withholding any tax throughout the year while they brought in a large net amount of income. However, I tended to them by actively listening to their concerns and putting myself in their shoes to help resolve the true issue causing their frustration. I found that many times, business owners (or customers) were truly doing their best and felt this showed them that they had been irresponsible.

Something really interesting happened next: I let them know that I didn’t like surprises either and that I never want them to go through that again. I asked them to allow me to review their finances with them throughout the year so that they could plan ahead and either do something about taxes that would be owed or simply understand what would happen in the future.  Many of the businesses agreed to this and found value in having me work with them even more regularly. I gained more trust with these business owners through these interactions because they knew I was acting in their interest in a proactive way.

My takeaways from these experiences with customers:

  1. When someone is upset and allowing you to talk to them about it, they are giving a transparent opportunity to help them through their problem. Make sure they know you understand the real issue through asking patient and simple questions while also finding a way to empathize with their situation. If your solution doesn’t directly address or acknowledge their issue, they’ll certainly feel like you don’t have their best interest in mind. You may also find that your attention to the matter increases the value of your problem solving and solution.
  1.  After you have dealt with an upsetting situation for a customer, find ways to prevent (not avoid) the negative situation in the future by addressing the product or processes.
  1. Even when your business service or product is perfect, sometimes customer or prospect misunderstandings can lead to upset feelings or bad brand image on your part. Set up good expectations and show that you’ll follow through. This greatly helps customers understand most of what to expect while also allowing their trust in you to build through knowing that if things don’t go as planned, you will be there to help them through unexpected situations.

*Article provided by Jake McCrea, Controller at Agemni.