The service industry is a very complex environment. Most of us not only strive to provide the best service possible, it is integrated in our business model as a core component of our business. Providing a consistent professional service and staying agile is a must in order stay competitive. There should be zero room for being complacent. Despite our best efforts, clients will be displeased from time to time. Simply accepting ongoing dissatisfaction as an inevitable part of doing business is bad practice and can have serious negative repercussion. Instead, work at improving how you deal with customers whose experience has been less than satisfactory. It could mean the difference between losing customers permanently or keeping them satisfied – maybe even more committed to doing business with you.

“Quality service starts with reliable people” adorns one the walls of our 5th Avenue office in New York City. We take quality and reliability very seriously. All our employees go through rigorous training periodically to make sure providing excellent customer service is not just a goal, but something we actually accomplish every day. Our employees are even sent for training to countries like China, Turkey, and India to better understand our customers thus enabling us to provide a better service. At MTS, we celebrate the cultural diversity amongst our employees and see it as an asset. Enough bragging about how good we are. So, let’s say we do slip up and the customer is furious. What to do? Below are some key things to keep in mind when dealing with an angry customer.

1. Always acknowledge the customer’s problem.

Say something like, “I’m sorry the booking was rolled – I would be upset, too.” Sincerity is the key here; if you are not sincere the person on the other side of the call will know it. At the beginning of the conversation, let the customer vent. As Linda from Taylor Performance Solutions pointed out during one of training session few months back, this step is very crucial. Letting the customer vent implies that you care.

2. Offer a solution that would attempt to mitigate the situation.

Advertising ourselves as a solution oriented service provider is not enough, we actually have to provide solutions. Thus, it is important to do your homework before the phone call. Say something like “I apologize for the inconvenience, and will of course make sure you will not have to pay any per diem charges” “Next vessel will start to receive tomorrow, so I believe this can help” Adding something like “Is there something else I can do to improve the experience you’ve had with our company/product/service?” will only reassure your customer that you are there for them.
3. Rolled bookings are something we deal with every day.

A booking can get rolled for numerous reasons, chief among them are missing documentation cut off, and the vessel being overbooked. When a vessel is overbooked, prior to the cutoff, the vessel planner can roll the booking. Say we missed to notify the customer in time. Shipment in under an LC and LC stipulates the last day of shipment is end of the Month. This is a serious issue and can cost your customer a lot of money and maybe the buyer can walk out of the deal. Tell your customer that you want to record all the details of the situation so you can share it with everyone within your company to prevent it from happening again.

Unfortunately these kinds of problems happen well too often, and simply recording everything will not be satisfactory. Although we may not be able to get the booking on the vessel, we always make sure the containers will be loaded on the next vessel. Further, we work with vessel operators to flag the containers so they get priority at transshipment ports.

4. If the customer has been getting the runaround, and you are still not the person who has the answer, tell the customer that you will find out and call them back.

Also give the customer an idea of when you will return with the answer: “I apologize that you have been passed on to so many people within our company. Although I do not have the answer to your question, I will find the answer so you don’t have to be passed on again. What phone number would you like me to call when I find out? I will get back to you by tomorrow with the information.”

5. If you can, provide the customer with your name and contact number so that he may call you in the future if issues arise.

People love to have a name and phone number on file; it makes them feel in control.

6. Never say “It’s our policy.”

All policies are there to make customer service better and should be somewhat flexible in times of crisis. An angry customer does not want to hear about company policy.

7. Never blame your company or someone else in your company.

Always keep a united front: “I apologize for the experience you have had. Your experience is rare, and my goal right now is to make this right.”

In person or over the phone, your customers want to be treated with respect. Everyone claims to provide the best customer service, and that might be true. One important thing many companies fail to realize is that the one size fits all approach does not apply when it comes to providing excellent customer service. In an increasingly competitive market, customer service should be flexible, consistent and professional. You may not be successful at converting every angry customer, but by utilizing effective strategies, you stand a much better chance.