Mistakes happen. Things go wrong. Every once in a while, a repair is not going to come out perfect. And even more often, things will take longer than you anticipated. These kinds of issues are of course the last thing that a customer wants, but they’re inevitable.
As a service advisor, it’s your job to do everything in your power to handle these situations as quickly and painlessly as possible. You need to act as a barrier between the customer and upper management. If you do your job properly, management never needs to catch wind of petty customer complaints. But as we all know, sometimes it’s just out of your hands. Some customers get a head full of steam and won’t leave until they can get facetime with the GM.
In these cases, you’ll have to bite the bullet and let it happen. As a GM, you’re going to have to sit down with an angry customer every once in a while. But we have a process that we’ve been teaching for years, and it consists of four simple steps:
Handling Angry Customers – Absorb The Energy
First things first, you have to let the customer vomit all over the table. They have a lot of pent up anger and frustration and you want to let them get it all out. Nod your head and listen. Don’t interrupt them. It’ll take thirty minutes sometimes, but that doesn’t matter. This step is important because they really feel like nobody is listening to them, and you need to be that person. Forget about being right. Forget any objections or corrections that might pop up in your head.
Handling Angry Customers – Apologize No Matter What
As soon as the customer has everything off their chest, take a breath, and apologize. You can say whatever feels natural to you, but it’s important to include some version of the following:
“Oh my God I can’t believe that happened to you. I’m so sorry. We are going to use this as a learning opportunity.”
Again, it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t your fault. You have to apologize and take all responsibility. Don’t try to fix it or offer up any excuses. The issue is beyond that at this point, and the customer mostly just needs a friend. You can be that friend by listening and apologizing wholeheartedly.
They’re expecting you to argue and object to them, to deny their experience, and the best thing you can do is completely surprise them by doing the exact opposite. That shifts the power dynamic almost immediately to your advantage.
Handling Angry Customers – Put Them On Ice
The next step is about giving the customer some to take a breath. Tell them that you need some time to look into the matter. Make it clear that you’re going to investigate the matter and see what happened. Most of the time you already know what the solution is, but you need to give them some time to relax, and this move also gives them the impression that you really care about their issue. It also signifies to them that heads are gonna roll – someone’s going to get in trouble. A lot of the time they’ll start to back off at this point because they don’t want to get anybody fired, but whether that happens or not, you’re showing them that you take their complaint seriously.
Next, you’ll want to set up a time for a follow-up call. And it’s important to really stick to whatever time you say. Dropping the ball here is completely unacceptable.
Handling Angry Customers – State The Facts
When you get them on the phone for a follow-up, you want to tell them that you’ve looked into it and you’re going to run it up the flagpole. You’re going to make sure this never happens again. Say that you’re on the dealer council, and you’re going to communicate with them too. This is a serious issue and it demands serious action.
Ask the customer what you can do to fix it, but make sure they understand that the money is going to have to come from someone. “How can I make this right? Anything we do, I would be paying for. What can I do to fix this?” Always always always ask them what they want first, don’t offer. Chances are, what they want is less than what you might offer off the bat.
And most customers won’t want you to pay for anything huge, they just want to feel heard and understood. If you’ve listened appropriately, apologized, given them time to cool down, and offered to fix things, you can turn an angry customer into a best friend.