A few years ago, American Express divulged some interesting highlights of a survey they completed in 2011 which revealed nearly 80% of the participants polled claimed to have terminated a sales transaction via cancellation or refund because of bad behavior or otherwise poor service on the part of a salesperson or other company employee (source). A condescending attitude when a sales or service agent was confronted about a product or service issue ranked as the number one reason the customer chose to bail.
Nearly every failed transaction in sales is always avoidable. Listening, empathising and taking action to fix whatever problem they might be having is usually the easiest way to gain customer’s respect and undying loyalty.
In sales, avoid using the following deal-killing lines that NEVER lead anywhere good, and are nothing more than gas-on-the-fire when dealing with even the most mildly unhappy customer:
1. “Take it Easy…” ( or “Calm Down…”)
Pointing out that the customer’s angry and that you recognize that fact isn’t going to make most people calm down. In fact, as a salesperson or customer service rep, it’s your job to actually make them calm down. Use a calm and professional tone, look them in the eye, listen to their problem, tell them how you plan to fix things — empathise and make them feel like you’re listening. Most people get angry and yell at sales staff because they feel that’s the only way they’re going to get their issues addressed. Whenever the urge to say “Take it easy” comes to the surface, say “I understand, and this is what I’m going to do to fix this” instead.
2. “Nobody’s ever brought this up before…”
“You’re the first one to complain about this…” Or the classic “I wasn’t aware of that..” Using these kind of deflective statements is far worse than telling them they don’t have the right to be angry. They’re actually giving you constructive feedback, possibly a chance to keep their business and the revenue it’ll generate, and you’re being aloof and/or arrogant toward them for bestowing this gift on you. Most people will just move to the next business when they need to purchase the item or service you offer. Thank them for their feedback instead. Ask them what you can do to get their loyalty. Offer solutions.
3. “It’s your fault…”
Or “You did it wrong…” Both are universally bad statements to make to anyone, pretty much at any time. Finger pointing just means you can’t take responsibility and that they (the customer) aren’t likely to get anything but higher blood pressure from dealing with you. Instead of deflecting the problem on them, thank them for their feedback and patience. Once again, ask how you can resolve the problem for them and/or how you’re going to immediately take action to make sure their issue never happens again.
4. “Can I get back to you about this?…”
When there’s a sale looming close and the customer has a concern, they’re not going to hang around forever by the phone waiting for you to get back to them. If you need time, figure out how long — do it quickly — and tell the customer exactly when they’ll hear from you by. Don’t forget to justify the hours, days, months needed to fix the issue and ensure a followup schedule that you’ll follow to the letter until the customer’s completely happy.
5. “That’s not our policy.”
Nobody cares about your policy. Particularly the kind that isn’t clearly visible on your marketing, sales receipts, or warranties. Certainly not that which is in small print and written in legal jargon. It’s YOUR responsibility to keep customers coming back through the door. They hold all the cards and have no interest in wasting their time brushing up on your company handbook. Rules are made to be broken/changed and an angry customer isn’t a returning customer. They certainly won’t be referring you either. Leave ramming policies down a customer’s throat to the cable and cell phone companies. If you want to be unique and profitable in your niche, you have to do whatever it takes to turn the customer’s frown upside down!
Main image by Daniel Oines