Mistakes happen. If you’re not careful, they can cost you a customer. But great customer service will help turn a possible loss into an opportunity to show customers that you truly care.
There are many names for a sales agent—sales representative, sales rep, manufacturer’s representative, and distributor are just a few titles used to describe those in the sales industry. Just like there are a multitude of names for this occupation, there are also just as many hats sales agents must wear on a daily basis. Tracking down new leads, cultivating relationships, travelling to make sales pitches, negotiating pricing, and managing payments are just a few of the tasks that take up sales reps’ time. However, there is another role that cannot be forgotten. The role of customer service is extremely important for keeping buyers happy and promoting a positive reputation.
When buyers are satisfied, customer service is easy. However, if a buyer is upset then customer service can be a nightmare for manufacturer’s reps. But fear not! If a customer is angry because of a sales agent’s mistake, following a simple process can turn a bad-tempered buyer into a satisfied customer and a crisis situation into a learning opportunity.
1. Swallow Your Pride
No one likes making mistakes. And people like their mistakes being pointed out even less. But, we are all human and errors are bound to occur. If a buyer reports a complaint, take ownership of the situation. As a manufacturer’s rep, you depend on a lot of different people to get your job done and the problem may not actually even your fault. Still, owning up to the error and assuring the customer that you will do your best to resolve the situation will go a long way.
Have you ever found yourself rambling on about some jerk that cut you off on the highway when asked a simple question like “How was your day?”? Sometimes it just feels good to vent. When a customer is upset enough to actually contact customer service about it, it’s likely because they feel that the business doesn’t care about them and isn’t paying them proper attention. The same is true if the customer is working with a sales rep. To diffuse the situation, ask the buyer to explain what happened and why they are angry. Reiterate what they say in your own words so they know you understand.
3. Take a Break
After the customer has fully explained why he or she is upset, find out the best way to reach them and set up a timeline to get back to them with a solution. This is a great tactic to use for two main reasons. First, it allows the manufacturer’s rep to exceed expectations and show the customer that they are important and their concerns are being addressed. An easy way to do this is to promise to contact them with a solution the next day. Immediately begin working on a solution and present it to the customer the very same day. The quick follow-up will show the customer that they are a priority. Second, taking a break gives the customer some time to cool off. Many times a call to a customer service center is an immediate, emotional response. Calling the customer back later will give them some time to calm down and think about the situation rationally.
4. Rectify & Reassure
Sales representatives should do their best to offer a solution to rectify the mistake that angered the customer in the first place. The specific response will vary depending on the situation, but it should always include an apology and a reassurance that the mistake will not occur in the future. Sometimes it is a good idea to explain what went wrong that caused the problem in the first place and explain how it will be avoided in the future, but it is vital to not appear as if you are making an excuse or blaming someone else.
Try to see the positive side of making a mistake. The error could be a simple accident, or it could be a result of a flawed internal process. Either way, the manufacturer’s rep should take the time to assess why the mistake occurred and figure out a way to make sure that the error doesn’t happen again. It is also important to share this information with anyone else who could also be affected by the issue.
Most people are too busy with their own lives to remember the specifics of a customer service problem they’ve had once some time has gone by. They will probably forget the name of the customer service representative that helped them and may even forget the problem they had in the first place or the solution the company provided. However, one thing they will not forget is how the customer service representative made them feel. Customers will remember if they felt ignored or dismissed and they will also remember if they were treated with empathy and concern. These feelings will remain long after the details of their complaint have faded from memory. If a buyer voices a complaint, the sales rep must immediately put on his or her “customer service hat” and attend to the problem with ownership, understanding, and the resolve to not let the problem happen again. Otherwise, the sales agent risks permanently damaging their reputation and ultimately their bottom line as well.
What was your best or worst customer service experience? What was done to rectify the problem and how did the situation turn out?