Empathy and Solving Client Complaints

by | Dec 11, 2018

One of the most painful situations for me to watch is when a customer is screaming and complaining and ranting and raving to an employee. It’s so painful for me because I feel like, more times than not, the employee hasn’t been given the tools or the training or any framework for how to deal with this customer. The customer is screaming and yelling and the associates say, “Oh, we’re sorry! We’re sorry!” But they keep yelling, and they keep saying sorry, and nothing happens how it’s supposed to. 

What I would love to share with you today is my three-step framework for how to take these complaining disaster situations and turn them around to something awesome. 

Step number one: we need to deflate the balloon. And when I say “deflate the balloon,” whenever I see an angry customer, anyone complaining or ranting and raving, I always get this image in my head that they have a big red balloon waving above them, and in that balloon is their actual complaint and then also everything bad that’s ever happened to them. Until they get all of that air out of the balloon, they don’t want to hear anything that you have to say. What you need to do in the deflate phase is to stop what you’re doing and actively listen to everything that they’re saying and that they’re feeling. 

After we deflate, the next step is to relate. In this phase, we respond with empathy. After listening, we now know why they are upset and how they’re feeling. So we simply respond back and say, “You know what? If I had to bring my computer back eight times to get fixed and it still was broken I’d be really annoyed too.” Or we could say, “Yeah, it sounds like you’ve had a really challenging day of flying and trains and people, and now you get here and we don’t have a car for you. That’s really frustrating.” When we relate to people through empathy they feel heard and they also know that we’ve listened to what the actual problem is. From the employee’s point of view, you’re now thinking, “Okay, they’ve been back to the store eight times and their computers not working… what can I do about it?” Which brings us to the next part of the relate phase and that’s to grab a hold of them– figuratively grab a hold of them!– and say “I’m going be the one to solve your problem! I’m on it! I’m going to own this! I’m gonna take care of it!” 

From there we go to our third phase which is to elevate. Elevate the situation by giving them what they actually want. The easiest way to do this is by asking a simple question. “How can we make this right for you?” “How can we make it better for you?” Now some of you might be thinking, “Oh my God they’re going to ask for a free car! They’re going to ask for a free computer!” They’re not going to ask for a free car or a free computer… IF you have deflated and related. If you skip those two steps, perhaps they will. But if people feel listened to and then they feel understood, they’re going to tell you what they want. They just want you to fix their computer. They just want a car to be able to drive to work in. 

So there you have it! The three steps to turn a screaming customer into a raving fan. Deflate that big red air balloon through actively listening. Relate to them through empathy. Grab ahold of them and own it. Then elevate the situation by asking what can you do to make it better. Hopefully, this is helpful to you. Let me know how it works when you deflate, relate, and elevate. 


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