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  • When you’re dealing with an angry client’s complaint, let the client vent as long as they’re not being abusive.  Don’t interrupt what they’re saying.  Let them tell their complete story and describe how upset they are.  Doing this allows the client to release pent up negative energy and the sooner the client lets this out — the sooner they’ll calm down and be able to participate in a more productive conversation.
  • Disarm an upset client by agreeing with them right up front.  This is one of the fastest and most effective methods to diffuse client anger.  Say something like, “You’ve got a right to be upset,” or, “I can understand why you’re mad — I would be, too, if the situation were reversed.”  This tactic can literally stop an upset or angry client in their tracks.  If the fight that they expected from you never materializes, it catches them off-guard. And if you follow this up by saying something like, “Let me see what I can do to make it right,” you’ll immediately switch the discussion from a negative one to a constructive one.
  • In certain cases it’s appropriate to ask the client to identify what kind of solution they would like.  Don’t ask provocative questions like, “What do you want me to do about the situation.” That will only escalate the tension.  Take a more tactful approach and say, “We really want you to be completely satisfied.  What would you consider to be a reasonable solution?” If you can meet the client’s request — do so. If you cannot, come up with an alternative that you can commit to.
  • Give the client with a complaint your undivided attention.  Everyone in this situation should stop what they’re doing and focus on the client.  If you’re face-to-face be sure to maintain positive eye contact (no rolling eyes) and be conscious of maintaining open and friendly body language.
  • When faced with a non-substantive client problem, offer an explanation, but don’t make excuses. Avoid becoming defensive and resist the urge to quote your policies and procedures manual to a client who’s in distress. Clients are not interested in your policies and procedures. The best thing you can do is focus on how to fix their problem.
  • Use “I” or “ME” language in place of the more accusatory sounding “YOU” language. Instead of saying, “What do YOU need?” take a different tack and ask, “What can I do to help you?” Instead of saying, “YOU didn’t give me complete information,” say something like, “I’ll need a little more information from you.”  Instead of saying, “YOU need to call someone else,” say something like, “Let ME give you the number of someone who can help you with this.” This small shift in your language can make a big difference.
  • If a client is ranting and raving use their name quietly and then wait. You might have to say it a second time but most people will stop when they hear their name and they will generally respond with yes. If they respond in this way, you have the chance to steer the discussion toward one that is more productive.
  • Keep a notepad close by. If you sense that a client has a problem or a complaint start making notes right away. Clients will get upset if they have to tell you their story more than once because you failed to write down the details the first time around. In addition, you can use those notes to figure out how to pre-empt similar problems in the future.
  • Be someone who prides themselves on being able to solve client problems. It’s good to keep in mind that anyone can handle easy problems and it really takes a professional to successfully tackle the tougher issue.
  • Practice compartmentalizing. If you’ve dealt with a serious client issue or problem or angry client earlier in the day, don’t let that interaction spill over and spoil the next client interaction you have or the rest of your day.
  • Think of problem solving as something of a game, and you win this game by turning an angry client into a happy client. You lose the game if you lose your cool.
  • Once you’ve resolved the client’s complaint put a note in the database indicating that they should receive special attention during the next conversation. You really want to avoid having your clients have two bad experiences in a row. If they do, there’s every chance that you will have lost them forever as a client.


Atticus, Inc.

This article was written by an Atticus staff member.

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