Managing the Angry Client

August 4, 2012 by Shirleen Von Hoffmann Leave a reply »
By Shirleen Von Hoffmann Sales Coach for Sales Team Coaches Copyright 2012

The other night I was out with some friends for drinks and appetizers.  The bartender was very condescending to me when I asked him to clarify his statement regarding the happy hour.  I couldn’t hear him in the loud bar.  I noticed his absolute rudeness but put it aside to have a good time with my friends.  When taking our order a bit later, again he was impatient, impersonal and short.  Then to top off the night, when one of the girls got her drink and told him it was different from what she ordered, he argued with her first, then snatched up the drink and walked away in a huff to make her another.  When he returned to the table he set down the drink, said nothing, she said, “You know I am sorry but that drink just didn’t taste good and wasn’t what I ordered.”  He never acknowledged her or her apology and walked away.  She in turn became furious with his behavior and took her drink to the bar and told him to keep his drink and send over the Manager instead.  At that point our “fun evening” ended abruptly.  When we finally got the Manager on our way out, all the Manager could say, over and over, was I’m sorry…I’m sorry.  No resolution and no feeling like our complaints either mattered nor would go any further for correction.


This is a sad story to me.  There was so much done wrong in this story, where do I start?

If you are going to be in a job that involves customer service, then you better like customers and be ready to service them.


Take Ownership-Fix it Fast

If a customer complains, don’t take it personal, immediately think long term, how can I make this customer a happy customer for life.  I quick apology from him and fix would have done the job.  (I am sorry; let me get another drink for you right away.)  Done, fixed!  It only cost a small shot of booze and you would have four clients who would have returned in the future.  But with his rude behavior, that restaurant lost four business people who would have returned with clients, family, friends…


It’s my pleasure

At the Ritz Carlton the customer services is excellent.  The employees use the term, “It’s my pleasure” every time they give you something and you say, “Thank You”.  It’s such an easy thing to say, “It’s my pleasure to please you” is what they are really saying.  Its goes a long way and you never get tired of hearing it.  The entire evening would have ended differently for us if when he  brought her the second drink and she said, Thank You…all he needed to say was, “No Problem at all, I hope this one hits the spot.  Try it and let’s make sure it tastes good.”


Managers should provide solutions

If you are a Manager and a customer is complaining to you don’t just blankly look at them and say I’m sorry over and over. Those are just words with no action and that just angers the client further.  They are expecting you, as the Manager to offer some resolution to the complaint. In this case, you could tell there was not going to be any action to follow from this weak Manager. (Manager should have said, “I’m so sorry about your experience here tonight, please accept a free dinner or a free drink on us next time you return and make it up to you.  Our service is normally excellent.  I will have a talk with my employee to clarify our customer service policy.)


It’s so easy to please by owning the problem.  “I am sorry, let me take charge and fix that”, goes a long way with an unhappy client.  You put the fire out immediately before it turns into an inferno you can’t fix.


The four of us will never return to that restaurant again and we all have frequented there at least twenty times or more.  I found out, that same restaurant is filing for bankruptcy and will probably close its doors.  The owners probably never knew the hole in their sinking ship began with their customer service.

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2 Responses

  1. Kent Yonker says:

    From many years of selling building materials the only thing I know for sure is stuff happens.
    When things go wrong this is an great opportunity to showcase how you are different from most by doing whatever it takes to fix the problem.
    Many of my current clients suport me because at some time in the past I drove all night to make sure they had materials and the job lost no time from our mistake. By “our mistake” I refer to the whole sales process and shipping of materials.
    The big mistake I see sales people make again and again is trying to hide from the client when stuff happens. Next is when a team member or shipping screws up the order the sales person complaining to the client how rough it is to have to work with the offending persons or person. The last thing the client wants to hear or should ever hear is all of your companies challenges. Tell them trutfufully what happened and the steps you are taking to fix it.
    You can not fix them all but did you do everyone you could do to fix the problem and make the client happy? If you think about the cost to get new clients and the value of referrals and having loyal clients the very best use of your time is to fix it so the client is happy and maybe even blow away by your efforts.

  2. So True Kent! Thanks for the thoughts…

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