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MSPs: Seven Ways to Handle Upset Clients

We have all dealt with upset customers. They often blame us for issues that are out of our control. It happens all the time. It's the nature of the IT support business in which we compete. But, there's good news. You can use proper support as competitive advantage. Here are seven ways to do so.

Most IT service providers do a terrible job handling upset customers. SMBs almost always site poor customer service as the reason they want switch IT providers. It's never about price, knowledge, or tools. In fact, they often say they would pay more for better care. This should tell you that great customer service is the key differentiator between you and the competition. A key component in great customer service is knowing how to deal with upset clients. Here are my suggestions for doing this successfully:

How to make an upset client a happy one:
  1. Tackle the Problem: A lot of IT guys duck upset customers. Avoiding problems only makes things worse. It is always best to confront problems head on, sooner rather than later.
  2. Don't Take it Personally: Keep in mind when an upset customer starts to yell, it's not a personal assault. They are upset at the situation and not you. Check your ego at the door and don't take it personally. It will only hurt you in the end if you do.
  3. Listen: When talking with an upset customer, let them vent before speaking. The kneejerk reaction is to become defensive and interrupt while they are venting. This only makes the situation worse. Allow them to say what they have to say.
  4. No Excuses: Customers do not want to hear how your lead tech is sick or your had a flat tire on the way to their appointment. Instead, tell them how you are going to take care of them, not why you can't.
  5. Empathize: When a customer has a complaint or a problem, show them that you care and understand where they are coming from.  Let them know that their concern is your concern. Empathizing and relating to them will go a long way towards building a strong rapport and a lasting and profitable relationship.
  6. Take Ownership: Let them know that they are in good hands. Tell them that you are going to personally see to it that their problem gets taken care of. That you have taking ownership of it.
  7. Use Positive Phrasing: Never use don't and can't when talking to customers. "John, I don't know how fix your SQL problem." That 's just going to tick an already edgy customer off even more. Instead you should say "John, I am unsure how to fix your SQL problem, but I am going to research it and find an answer." Doesn't that sound better?
Understanding how to handle and triage upset clients is a must for any business to be successful. If you master this skill, you will make your current clients happier and you will start taking away your competitors clients who aren't.

Paul Barnett is marketing director for VirtualAdministrator, which offers hosted solutions for managed service providers. Read all of Paul’s guest blogs here. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of MSPmentor’s 2010 Platinum sponsorship.

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

Larry Podojil (not verified)
on Jun 22, 2010
Treat the customers business as your own. Follow-up a couple weeks after a problem has been resolved to ensure satisfaction. This technique endears customers to you.
on Jun 22, 2010
Great advice, Paul. I would go a step further and say that you can even turn a bad situation into a positive one. If you can resolve the issue following the steps you've outlined here, that upset client can become your biggest champion. It's all in how your business handles the situation and how well you listen to that customer.
Stuart Selbst (not verified)
on Jun 22, 2010
Nice post Paul. Back in January we blogged about a very similar issue. Here is the post incase you would like to get our take. All the best, Stu
Tommy (not verified)
on Jul 6, 2010
A tip regarding the listening part; make sure you take notes while you allow the client to empty it out. When you are sure the client is ready and have spilt it all, read the list of complaints back to him or her. It's the ultimate way of showing you are listening. I have actually have had fuming clients calling back later and asked me to forgive them for their behaviour only by doing this. Also, never over-promise on the resolution or time for resolution and always over-deliver.
on Jun 22, 2010
Stu, You are correct. Being empathetic and listening to the customer are both very important. When people are upset, they just want to be heard and acknowledged. It really is that basic. Listen to them, put yourself in their shoes, don't make excuses, and take ownership of the problem. That's all you have to do. Cheers, Paul
on Jun 22, 2010
Sam, I agree with you. If you do a great job handling an upset customer, you can turn a negative into a positive. As an MSP, delivering great customer service is the best way differentiate yourself from your competitors. Cheers, Paul
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