Prevent Unpleasant Surprises

25.06.2018 |

Episode #8 of the course How to serve upset customers by Jeff Toister


So far in this course, we’ve covered tactics you can use to defuse an angry customer or help recover the relationship after a service failure. Were you able to follow up with an angry customer yesterday? If so, what was the result? I’ve often found customers are happy to hear from us.

Today’s lesson is exciting. What if I told you that there was a simple way to prevent customers from getting angry in the first place?


Avoiding Unpleasant Surprises

One area of opportunity is helping customers avoid unpleasant surprises.

An unpleasant surprise occurs when an experience is worse than a customer expected. For instance, imagine you order something online and arrange for in-store pickup. You drive to the store, only to find there was an error in the store’s inventory system and they don’t actually have the item you ordered in stock. There’s a good chance you’d be pretty upset.

Now, imagine the same situation where you order a product online and arrange for an in-store pickup. Before you leave to drive to the store, you get a call from a friendly employee who apologizes profusely and explains the item you ordered actually isn’t in stock. The employee then gives you the option of picking up the item from another store or having it shipped to your home at no charge.

This time around, you’d probably appreciate the employee’s helpfulness more than you would be upset about the inventory issue.

That’s the power or preventing unpleasant surprises!


Help Your Customers Avoid Unpleasant Surprises

Here’s a few techniques you can use:

Give the worst-case scenario. We often need to give customers an estimated time for a service to be finished or a product to be delivered. The challenge is, if we tell customers, “two to four days,” customers often selectively hear, “two days.” That means they will get anxious or even angry if it takes three or four days, even though both are well within the quoted timeframe.

A better way to put it is to offer the worst-case scenario by telling the customer it will take “up to four days.” This way, the customer will be okay with a four-day time frame and may be pleasantly surprised if it only takes two or three.

Use clear language. We sometimes create issues by using unclear language when promising something to a customer. For instance, “right away” might mean the end of the day, but a customer could interpret it to mean within the hour. That misunderstanding could set the customer up for disappointment.

A better approach is to use specific language. You might say, “I’ll follow up with you by 5pm today.” This makes it much more clear. Of course, you still need to follow up by 5pm!

Keep customers updated. Customer service reps sometimes avoid delivering bad news to a customer. Let’s say a customer drops off his bicycle off at a local shop to get repaired. The repair technician tells him a part needs to be ordered, so the repair will take approximately three days to complete.

What happens if the part is delayed and the repair will suddenly take longer? The customer may not be happy to get a call and hear about a delay, but he almost certainly will be angrier if he doesn’t get that call! He would understandably be frustrated if he drove to the bike shop only to learn his bike still wasn’t ready.

Here’s an activity to help you apply the concepts from today’s lesson.

1. Make a list of unpleasant surprises your customers may encounter.

2. Decide what you can do to help them avoid these situations.

3. Take action at your next opportunity!

Tomorrow, we’ll learn my absolute favorite customer service technique. I love it because it’s another powerful way of preventing customer anger.


Recommended book

Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business by Frances Frei, Anne Morriss


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