How to Handle an Unhappy Customer while Working on the Road
Dmitry Davydov 29 December 2014
Being productive in a mobile environment gives us a great set of tools for getting work done on the go, but it also creates a unique set of challenges for dealing with customer issues.
Is it okay to call a customer from a noisy airport terminal? What if you can't get consistent wifi to handle customer needs? How do you solve a customer issue when you don't have all the documentation or details at your fingertips?
DO get in touch with your unhappy customer as quickly as possible.
Don't use your mobile environment or travel plans as an excuse to avoid handling a sticky customer issue. Even if the best you can do is a quick email, take the time to let your customer know you are doing all that you can to solve the problem and come up with the right solution. DON'T wait until you're back "at the office" to address the situation. Nobody likes to be ignored. When your customer is unhappy, don't increase their anger by letting them feel like you don't care. They don't know – or care – if you are in an airport or a different timezone. They just know that you aren't responding to them.
If you can use your phone for social purposes and games, you can certainly use it for customer needs. You may not be able to answer all their questions or address all the issues while you're on the road, but you can reach out with a sincere message that you are working on it. Simply making contact as soon as possible goes a long way toward calming an upset customer and finding a reasonable solution.
DO gather all the information you can. Mobile apps and connectivity give us the ability to get a lot of information on our mobile devices. Gather the information you can and learn as much as possible about the situation at hand.
Spend lag time going over the customer history and the current situation. Get the clearest understanding possible of how you can make your customer happy.
DO choose to be honest. There's nothing wrong with letting your customer know that you're working on the road. You can apologize for the background noise or the unavoidable delays, and your customer can see that you are dedicated to solving their problem even when it's not convenient for you.
Bluffing isn't the way to win over an unhapp customer. If you are still waiting on data, reports, or other sources of information, don't pretend to know something you don't really know.
Let your customer know when you will or won't be able to talk or respond; that way you avoid an expectation of an instant response when you simply can't provide one.
DON'T make promises you can't keep. If you feel terrible that you can't do all you would like to do, it's tempting to make up for any inconvenience by making promises of what you will do once you're able to.
Reassure your customer that you are working on problem, investigating the situation, finding solutions, and so on. But keep yourself from making specific promises that may be difficult to keep.
DO ask questions. Ask lots of questions and listen, really well, to the answers.
If phone conversation is not possible due to your environment, ask your customer if they would be willing to have an email conversation, to use instant message, or to call and talk to someone at your home base who can record the conversation and later pass it on to you.
DO maintain a connection as much as possible. Stay in contact, even if sporadically, while you do your work in your mobile situation. Keep your customer updated on your progress on a regular basis, or give them a good idea of when you will follow-up via phone or in person.
Much of the stress customers experience comes from not knowing what to expect; if you can ease that stress by giving your customer your reassurance and direct information about how and when you will communicate, you can defuse a tense situation.