A few years ago, I heard the story of Ronnie who owned his own construction business. Ronnie had accepted a down payment from a client to do some remodeling but had dragged his feet in getting the job completed. The customer had complained several times, but Ronnie always had an excuse as to why the job was taking so long. One afternoon, the customer tracked Ronnie down on another construction site and demanded that the job be finished, or else.
It had been a rough day/week/month for Ronnie and he was already running low on patience when his customer found him that afternoon, so things escalated quickly. Harsh words were exchanged on both sides and the situation went from bad to worse.
The customer told Ronnie that he played golf with the city’s district attorney, and if Ronnie didn’t make the whole thing right, he would have a talk with his golfing buddy.
Ronnie wasn’t in the mood to be pushed around, so he told the customer, “Do your worst! See if I care!” The customer stormed away and Ronnie went back to work and nothing much happened for a while.
A couple of weeks later, though, police officers showed up at Ronnie’s house around 5 p.m. on the evening before Thanksgiving. They placed Ronnie in handcuffs and took him to jail. Since the courthouse had just closed for the Thanksgiving weekend, Ronnie had to sit in jail for four days until he could see a judge for his bail hearing on Monday. Ronnie believes that arresting him on the night before Thanksgiving and making him sit in jail through the holiday weekend was intentionally spiteful, and the circumstances certainly lend credibility to that conjecture.
Ronnie had ticked off his client and dared him to take action against him. It’s a pity that Ronnie didn’t try to deescalate the situation and win the customer over. I wasn’t there, but it seems to me that there were several steps Ronnie could have taken before the situation deteriorated that badly.
He could/should have:
1] Listened to his customer without comment for as long as it took for the customer to calm down
2] Empathized with his customer, letting him know that he understood how he felt and why he had a right to feel that way
3] Communicated what he was going to do about the situation–first telling the customer how he was going to remedy the problem, and then letting him know what service or product he would give him to make up for the inconvenience and aggravation
It’s impossible to make every angry customer happy, but I truly believe that with a little effort most negative situations can be turned around.
What about you? Have you ever had a horrible customer service situation in your business or profession that you have been able to turn around? I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below with your tale!
© 2021 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site www.CharlesMarshallSpeaker.com or contact him via e-mail at Charles@CharlesMarshallSpeaker.com