No matter how hard you try you can’t please everyone. It is inevitable that you will receive irate emails from customers from time to time. It doesn’t matter that you’ve received it. What matters is what you do next.
- Do not react immediately. Your first instinct may be to get angry back at them, or get defensive and deny everything. These are normal emotions but don’t act upon them – give it a few minutes or an hour to process what the customer has said and a plan of action for dealing with it.
- Show that you’ve understood their concerns. They’re irate and they want someone to listen to them. Reword their concerns in your reply message.
- Identify how the problem started. Is it your fault? Promptly admit it then apologize for the mistake. They will appreciate your honesty. Don’t linger on it or apologize too much, though. Is it someone else’s fault (outside your business)? Explain what has happened and who is responsible. If it is another person in your company then you must still take responsibility.
- Tell the customer what you have done, or will do, to rectify the situation. If it is out of your hands then gently suggest a course of action they can take to rectify the situation.
- Show that the company appreciates their feedback. Perhaps there are systems you can put in place to stop it from happening again. Explain that to the customer and thank them for pointing it out.
Never put the blame back on the customer, unless it is the customer’s fault in the first place (see below). Do not say anything like “John would never have done that unless you put him under pressure” or “We sent the package, you must have lost it.” Even if it’s true, accept the responsibility for your side of the mistake and let them figure out the rest.
Sometimes a customer will use your product or service wrong, get undesirable results, and blame you. This is normal too, but don’t blame them. Is it something you can cover in additional training? Or perhaps update your instruction manual? Gently explain to the customer what happened, how you’re going to rectify it, and how their feedback is valuable.
If the same customer is regularly sending irate emails, or getting angry during meetings or phone calls, it may not be a problem with your company at all. Some people are emotionally charged – particularly inexperienced small business owners – and any small problem at home or otherwise could make them take it out on you. Other customers will believe that the only way to get good service is by shouting at people. Wait for them to calm down then explain, calmly and clearly, that you don’t appreciate being shouted at.