Marc Cosentino, co-owner of Goodfella’s Brick Oven Pizza in Staten Island, N.Y., found himself in that position, dealing with a husband who was very unhappy that Cosentino had hung up on his wife, who was treating the businessman to a tirade because she was not satisfied with his service.
Costenino did the right thing. Instead of escalating the situation with tit-for-tat jabs, he acknowledged that he had been wrong in the first instance. Then they had a level playing field to carry on a rational conversation and come to an agreement. The customer was mollified and ready to patronize the pizza parlor once again.
Joe McCullum, owner of Eagles’ Wings Business Coaching in Hamden, Conn., advises that an in-your-face irate customer really represents an opportunity to win a loyal fan for your business. He gives these tips for defusing a confrontation and turning it around:
When confronting a situation, stay calm. Make eye contact with the grieved customer and ask what the problem is. You might want to take notes, a signal that you are really interested in knowing the details. Don’t rush things. This may be all it takes to set the scene for rational discussion. Most people aren’t used to having their consternation acknowledged. Don’t head for a back room to address the confrontation. That lets him or her know you are willing to face the complaint and try to work it out. Other customers may actually be impressed. The reputation will last longer than the incident.
Don’t Become Defensive
That will only escalate the irate customer’s frustration. If there is a misunderstanding, wait for a calmer moment to present your viewpoint. Acknowledging that you might be angry if you had found yourself in a similar situation may help.
Apologize for the event and express thanks to the individual for bringing unsatisfactory service to your attention. Ask how it can be corrected and make a sincere effort to work out a solution together. Get the person’s contact information and do a follow-up to ensure that the problem was satisfactorily resolved.
Making the effort could ensure a loyal customer who is more than ever ready to bring you his business.