Turn a Foe into a Friend: How to Console an Upset Client

By: Kaitlyn Hudlow, M.S.

 Customer relations is one of the most important aspects of any business. Whether you are recruiting someone to be a part of your organization, or are trying to keep someone happy who is already friend or foeinvolved, a lot goes into building and maintaining those relationships. Most of the time this just requires being courteous and helpful. However, every once in a while you will run in to those people who are just not having a good day and have decided that you’re the one to blame.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 So what do you do in those situations? How do you stay professional, courteous, and helpful to a potential or current client when they seem inconsolable? Below are a few steps that I have used throughout the years to achieve a successful and happy ending to those overwhelming conversations.

1)    Let them vent- Sometimes people just need to be heard. Allowing the client to vent their frustrations without any interruptions will make them feel like you care about what they’re saying instead of trying to just rush them off the phone.

2)    Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t say it mean- Most people think that when working with clients, you either need to be defensive and hold your ground, or be a doormat and just give the customer whatever they want. But there is a third option- You can defend you or your company’s policies/decisions AND be gracious to the client both at the same time! How you ask? Simple- Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t say it mean.

For example, if someone is calling because they are upset that the client website has been changed, instead of saying “Well we control the website, so we update it as we see fit”, you could say, “I’m sorry if you feel the change was unforeseen. However, the changing of the website has been a long process with approvals going through several chains. We feel that the new website will better help people navigate the pages and find the information they need.” That way, you are not being defensive of your company’s right to change its website and thus upsetting the client even more, nor are you apologizing unnecessarily for something that was company approved.

3)    Patience is a Virtue- Every person is different. For some people, once they get an explanation, they are happy and go about their day. For others, once they get an explanation, they find other things they aren’t happy about and want to discuss those next. In those situations you want to remain calm, listen to their concerns, and stay alert to answer any questions they may have.

4)    If it’s your fault, FIX IT– If your client is upset about a mistake that was made by you or your company, apologize and see what steps need to be made to resolve the issue. Also, as a bonus, either try to fix it while the person is on the phone, or email them later that day to let them know it was taken care of. Everyone knows that mistakes happen, but it’s how you handle the mistakes once they’ve been brought to your attention that the clients will remember!

5)    Decompress- After following the above steps, your client will be happy and moving on with their day, but you are probably stressed to the max! Take some time to decompress before your next client interaction. The last thing you want is your tension building up all day, to where you lose your cool with someone later that afternoon.  So take a quick stroll around the office, grab a cup of coffee, or have a little water cooler chat time with a co-worker. Trust me, you’ll be happy you took a few moments to get your mind back on right before moving on with your day!

At the end of the day, the majority of businesses run on customer service and satisfaction. While it may not be the easiest thing to console an upset client, it certainly pays to stay professional, courteous, and helpful in any situation.  After all, don’t we all want one more friend, and one less foe?


2 thoughts on “Turn a Foe into a Friend: How to Console an Upset Client

  1. Good thoughts all, Kaitlyn. But, I’d add to 4) If it’s your fault, FIX IT – Even if it’s not your or your firm’s fault, try and resolve the problem for them. That will go far toward soothing their misdirected, angry feelings. When you fix a problem you aren’t responsible for, they’re going to think you went above and beyond the call of duty.

  2. Thank you Mark. And great addition to #4! Having that level of customer service will show that you are a source that your clients can feel comfortable and confident coming to for when they have future questions or concerns.

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