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H – Hear what your customer has to say. Let them describe the problem or reason for their emotional distress. Do not interrupt or attempt to cut them off – that, in and of itself, is rude. Give them the opportunity to express their feelings about the situation.
E – Empathize with their situation. It’s very calming to someone who is upset to hear the words “I appreciate” or “I respect.” By the same token, it’s very irritating to hear “I understand.” How can one really understand if they are not in the situation? Train your employees to stay away from using trigger phrases such as “company policy” or “it’s a computer problem” or “we can’t do that.” Customers don’t want excuses – they want a solution to their problem! Train your reps to use appropriate phrases that help diffuse the emotion rather than escalate it.
A – Ask questions to determine what can be done to create a solution. The number one question your reps should ask is “What can we do to make this right for you?” It’s one of the simplest things you can do to understand the customer. Most management is afraid to empower their staff with that question for fear the answer will be something ridiculous or costly. Research has proven that in most situations the customer’s suggestion for resolving the conflict is less costly than what the company would have offered as the final solution.
R – Respond with a solution to the problem. Creating a solution with the customer on their first telephone call is absolutely vital to customer retention. Research by T.A.R.P.(Technical Assistance Research Program) has shown that 90 percent of customers with a problem will continue to do business with the company if they feel the person handling their complaint is genuinely concerned with resolving the situation. But in order for that to happen, you must first identify the conflicts your reps are most likely to encounter and then train them so they have all the possible solutions. Knowledge is power! But this knowledge will be useless unless you empower your reps to take the corrective actions. They must know what the possible solutions are as well as their level of authority to institute those solutions.
D – Deliver on the promise made to the customer. Make sure there’s a clear understanding with the customer as to what will happen and when it will happen. Restate these two items in very simple terms. If you want to truly set yourself apart from your competition, go the extra mile and call the customer after the problem has been corrected. Ask if they are happy with the solution. Ask if there is anything else you can do for them right now. Let your customer know that you care! People are just people. And it is our emotions that make us unique. Have you trained your reps on how to understand your customers and their needs? Do your reps understand that your customers are not all the same – and neither are their needs? Do your reps understand the bottom-line value of a satisfied customer?
Make sure your customers are being “HEARD” because if they aren’t being heard by you, they may just go find someone who will listen!