When customers email us, they may be angry or confused. These feelings can prevent them from accepting our answers. To move customers from emotional to rational, learn how to acknowledge a their feelings, even if you don't agree with them.
- When you're reading an email from a customer does the image of a toddler having a tantrum sometimes pop into your head? Sometimes the fierceness of our customers feelings can be surprising. For our response to be effective in those situations we need to help the customer get past their feelings and begin thinking. One way to do that is to acknowledge the customer's feelings. When our customers email to express those big, big feelings we need to acknowledge the feelings without necessarily agreeing that those feelings are justified.
For example, if a customer emails your hotel to say that he was disgusted because the tiny bar of soap on the vanity was unwrapped you may think, oh my sir, you need to get a life. Of course, what you really should do is respond and acknowledge the customer's feelings. You might not agree with the customer's feelings, but ignoring those feelings won't make them go away and it may cause the email exchange to go on longer than it should. One reason to acknowledge the customer's feelings is to show that you read the email.
Our customers always wonder if we've actually read their emails, or if we're just sending pre-written form letters. When we mention their feelings in our reply the customer gets written proof we've read the email closely. Here's an example, this customer writes to express her feelings about an on-going problem with her landscaping bill. She's angry and she's tired. If you acknowledge at least one of those feelings in your response you'll show that you've read her email closely, which will give her confidence that you're going to solve her problem and you may prevent a second email from her.
Your response might look something like this. You don't have to acknowledge all of the customer's feelings, choose the customer's safer feeling, the one that's not as extreme. In this case, Denise's tired feeling was safe and reasonable to include in your reply. Acknowledging the customer's feelings builds cooperation and rapport. Rapport is a feeling of closeness, of mutual trust and respect. When customers feel rapport with our company they're more likely to accept our answers and spend more money on our products and services.
So let's say a customer writes, I'm disappointed that the ceramic travel mug I bought from you doesn't keep my coffee warm at all. Don't fight the customer's feeling, he's disappointed. If you acknowledge his feelings your company will come across as honest and sincere. You could write, I'm sorry to learn that you're disappointed with our travel mug. Here's one way to keep your coffee warm for a longer time. Acknowledge the customer's feelings without agreeing with the feelings.
Sometimes our customers express unreasonable feelings, they describe a small problem as the worst thing that's every happened, or a short delay as having offended me to my core. So how should you acknowledge extreme feelings? Think of the paint strip at the hardware store that shows five or six shades of the same color. The lightest shade is at the top, the darkest is at the bottom. Think of the customer's extreme feelings as the darkest shade at the bottom.
When you reply acknowledge with a lighter shade of the same feeling. Here's an example, Robbie writes to H+ Sports, he says, I was furious when I opened the box you sent me and saw that you shipped only six bottles of vitamin water instead of the seven I had order. The furious feeling is one of the darker shades on the paint strip, we don't want to email back and assure the customer that we understand his fury. Instead move up the paint strip to a lighter shade of the same feeling.
If you choose angry your reply might sound like this, I'm really sorry we didn't fill your order properly and I can certainly understand why you were angry. We've overnighted the missing bottle to you. So to wrap up, don't shy away from the feelings the customer has expressed in an email. Mentioning those feelings in your response is a great way to show the customer you care and you really do want to help.
- Reading emails carefully
- Anticipating follow-up questions
- Answering all of the customer's questions
- Handling difficult questions
- Explaining your process to the customer
- Paraphrasing the customer's situation
- Acknowledging the customer's feelings
- Apologizing when appropriate
- Avoiding clichéd language
- Demonstrating empathy and sincerity in your writing
- Building rapport