A busy restaurant manager attended my seminar on creating “customer delight.” Soon after, she wrote to me directly, asking this most appropriate question about how to use good customer service skills in a bad situation:
I received a complaint from a customer about certain issues in our restaurant. After checking with the parties concerned, there was a lot of variance between what happened and the customer’s version. We know the customer lied as we have documents to verify the facts.
How should I reply, as I am being chased by her for an official explanation.
Thanks & regards,
Here is my reply and suggestion to employ good customer service skills:
This happens all the time. The customer may be wrong, but let’s keep in mind that she is still your customer. You don’t need to challenge her veracity or integrity (that would create a lose-lose situation). Instead, agree with her on the importance of the key value dimension in her complaint (speed, courtesy, flexibility, personal service, value for money, etc).
Then move on to your proposal to resolve or repair this situation. Show appreciation for her patronage and, frankly, ignore her lies. If there is a financial dimension to this complaint and she wants a refund or compensation, provide some small token, voucher, future discount or special offer “as a gesture of goodwill.”
I am assuming if you handle this right, she will come back in the future, speak positively about you and spend more money with you, too. These should be your ultimate objectives. Sometimes customers can be jerks. As much as possible, forgive them.
All the best,
PS: If this approach does not work, let your customer know (as diplomatically as possible) that there must be some misunderstanding. Apologize for any confusion and then explain your view of the situation showing the records in your possession. (Do this gently, using your best customer service skills. There may be a misunderstanding after all.)
PPS: If this still does not work, and your customer threatens inappropriate action, let her know (as diplomatically as possible) that you need to refer this to someone else for proper handling. Then pass it to your lawyers.
Key Learning Point To Improve Customer Service Skills
Sometimes customers will overstate a situation to the point where they lie. Restrain any urge you may have to attack or expose their exaggeration. Use good customer skills instead. Employ kindness to counteract their offense, and generosity to overwhelm their guilt. Remember, no one wins an argument with a customer. If you lose the argument, you lose. And if you win the argument, you still lose. Good customer service skills can help you overcome.
Call a staff meeting to discuss ways your customers inflate, overstate or exaggerate. Acknowledge how your staff might feel when facing these situations. Separate the urge to “fight back” from the stronger desire to create a positive outcome by using good customer service skills. Role play responses to achieve positive business results and sharpen customer service skills.
The customer is not always right. But the customer is always important. When your customers lie, opt for a higher plane by employing solid customer service skills. As much as possible, forgive them.