No matter how great an organization is there are always customer issues. It could be a misunderstanding, personality conflict, a service level issue, or simply customer remorse. Many times all of these at once. As the original relationship builder, the sales professional needs to be able to work with customer issues or as I like to fondly call them, customer heat.
Customer heat usually comes after perceived issues, real or not, haven’t really been dealt with. At least to their satisfaction. Many times there’s this believe from the salesperson that if they ignore the complaint long enough it goes away. And you know what? Sometimes it does. Or does it? Even if they stop complaining have they made the customer a raving fan of your company? While they’re not bothering the salesperson anymore they are most likely telling their circle of influence how bad you’re company is. This ultimately translates into major dollars loss over time.
Why do most sales professionals put off or ignore customer issues?
I can sum it up in one word, pain. How your sales team perceives the pain of dealing with heat, from not only the customer but your management team, is critical in solving any issues, keeping customers, and retaining good sales people. No one likes to deal with pain. Most will do anything not to. Your sales team needs to know that mistakes and misunderstandings are made and solving these issues are just part of doing business.
“The handful of companies that respond promptly and accurately to customer emails increase trust in their brand, bolster customer satisfaction, and boost sales both online and offline.” – BenchmarkPortal
One of my salespeople made a mistake on a deal. It was caught by the operations team and they went straight to the owner and complained on how incompetent this sales person had been. Immediately the owner came into my office and chewed me out for this mistake and questioned why I hired this guy in the first place. He then went down the halls where the salespeople were and vented using the f-bomb to make his point on how he would no longer tolerate these kind of mistakes by anyone. I can tell you after that no one wanted to admit to a mistake much less deal with customer issues.
As a side note, once the dust settled the salesperson and I called the customer and were able to get the misunderstanding handled. Truly wasn’t a major issue and we sold more product for the company.
8 Steps to Overcome Customer Heat
1.) Do your research. As a manager I never get involved with a customer until I gather all the facts surrounding the issue. Dealing with a complaint cold will most times make the matter worse.
2.) Make the call – all parties are present. I make sure that all parties involved are on the call so that no irregularities are presented and we stay on task.
3.) Let them vent. Most times just giving the customer a sympathetic ear is enough. Don’t underestimate the power of listening. If they bring up that they are going to sue I explain calmly that I will have no further interaction with them and they need to have their attorney contact mine. Typically this is a bluff and they will settle down and explain their issue.
“Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.” -Ross Perot
4.) Summarize their issues. Repeating back their complaints can be an easy way for the customer to hear how silly they are being. It also shows that you get what they are saying.
5.) Explain responsibility. Many times a customer doesn’t understand that they entered a business transaction and that they have a certain responsibility to perform as well.
6.) Fall on the sword. If your organization made a mistake acknowledge that. Don’t try to cover it up. It always makes things worse.
7.) What do they want to happen? Offer a solution – or an offer to get back with one. First find out what they are looking for as a solution. Many times it’s not monetary. Then offer a solution that makes sense to both parties. Sometimes it won’t be exactly what they are looking for but if you have gone through the above six steps it should be easy to explain how this is a solution.
8.) Get back with them. If you have offered to get back with them for more information or to present a solution make sure you make that date of contact. Missing this most likely will escalate the issue to a higher or even legal level.
Customer heat is a by-product of dealing with people in general. It’s not a matter if it will happen but when and how you will deal with it. Make your company environment such that handling customer issues has a process and becomes a learning opportunity. So… How do you handle the “I want to cancel”, “You cost my company…”, “You promised me…” issues?© 2006-2018 SalesBlog! | Photos courtesy of 123RF | Posted on