Employees, they are your businesses' greatest asset. Your employees can even be more important than your actual service or product. Think about it. No matter how yummy those cupcakes are, how brainy your consultants or diligent your janitors, if the delivery isn't awesome nothing else matters. Let's consider a little proof here. When was the last time you went to a great restaurant, with a reputation of amazing food but had a waitress who was let's just say....no bueno? Didn't it make your meal just a little less tasty?
Your employees have the ability to make your business thrive, creating happy customers and driving revenue OR they can wreck your business. And that can happen as fast as you can upload a video to Facebook and click that share button a few times. If we are really honest, sometimes employees just don't make the best decisions, they don't always provide the best customer service, they make mistakes and all of that can add up to angry customers with Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Case in point....the now infamous Rally's video. If you've watched the news or browsed your Facebook timeline, chances are good that you have seen this video. If you haven't had the pleasure you can take a look now.
HERE'S THE VIDEO OF THE EMPLOYEE....WELL, YOU'LL SEE
Yikes! This is about the worst nightmare of employers everywhere, especially a small business owner. Are you ready for the worst of your employee behavior to be posted on Facebook for the world to see? What about the next infuriated client? How would you respond? Or would you? This brings to the forefront something we don't often have a well thought out process to handle. Dealing with angry customers. Customers who are angry because an employee messed up.
Chances are good that Rally's as an Olivia Pope-ish public relations person on staff or on retainer to help navigate them through cases like this. For the rest of us, having a public relations and customer service process planned and ready to use is a nice tool to have prepared. Doing so can save your company and the brand you've worked so hard to build.
Even though addressing complaints are about as much fun as a root canal, if done right, can not only save your brand but build client trust. Rally's nailed it perfectly. They turned a negative (and gross) employee behavior that went virally public into an opportunity to build their brand. The world was watching and they responded in a way that quite possibly retained the trust of their current clients and managed to not turn off some potential clients, oh and maybe even got some positive shares on social media.
The importance of addressing these types of issues properly has never been more important than it is today. We have a great example here to learn some techniques for handling your next angry customer like a pro. Although I hope that you don't have to use these skills too often, being prepared is a rock star move. So let's listen to the response from Rally's and then venture on to the lessons learned.
RESPONSE FROM RALLYS
8 Lessons Rally's Taught Us About Responding Responding to Upset Customers
1. Respond in a timely and thoughtful manner. Silence is not golden in situations like this. Get in on the conversation and change it in a positive direction as soon as possible. The longer it takes for a company to make a response the worse the brand begins to look to customers and potential customers. It gives the impression of a lack of concern or condonance. Neither of those are good things. However, do give yourself a reasonable amount of time to examine the facts and take internal action so that you have a meaningful message to deliver to your customers.
2. Acknowledge the incident that occurred and the customer's feelings. Your customers may have voiced their feelings about the issue. Are they angry? Are they disappointed? Are they picketing outside of your store or slamming your company on social media? Whatever emotions they expressed, acknowledge it as valid. Everyone wants their emotions to be validated. Doing this first makes anyone more willing to listen to whatever you have to say next.
3. Express that the employee's behavior was inappropriate. If indeed your employee has done something inappropriate like wipe a hamburger bun on the floor and proceed to make sandwich with it, then say so. Sometimes we just have to own our employee's behavior and take the hit for it. Don't make excuses, just acknowledge the wrong thing that happened as being wrong and move on.
4. Reinforce your company's values and clearly express how their conduct is not in line with those values. Now is a good time to remind your clients of your company's values. Right now they may be thinking the worst about your company and all the good stuff has vanished. That's a very funny thing about humans, it takes seconds to erase a long history of positivity. Take a moment to bring the good back front and center. Even better, make it clear that the employee's behavior was out of line with these positive core values.
5. Assure the client that the behaviors of this employee is not representative of all of your employees. You definitely don't want the world to think that this is an accurate representation of your entire workforce or company. Who would eat at another Rally's if they believed that this was a common practice of all employees? Uhm no one. What impact would that have on your business? Huge probably. So reassuring your customer that your employees are hard working and committed to providing a high level of service is an important step.
6. Give the client insite on how these incidents are prevented under normal circumstances (training, policies and procedures etc). Policies and procedures are in place to prevent undesirable things from happening and to give guidance to employee behavior. Sharing how your business has proactively put procedures in place to prevent the worst from happening can reinforce the unacceptability of the behavior and that the employee knew better, but made a bad choice. Which is better than the appearance of a company being negligent or aloof to business operations.
7. Share how the employee was disciplined and the rationale behind your decision. This is what most clients want to hear. They want to know how the situation was corrected, the actions the company took with the employee to change their behavior. In this case, the employee was terminated. In other cases the employee may be disciplined in some other way. The resolution will vary depending upon the severity of the behavior and how much negative attention was caused by the employee.
8. Thank the client for their continued support. Assume the best, which is that your customers will still support your business. Thank them for understanding, after all everyone makes mistakes. Employees are not robots that are under our full control. Despite our best efforts of training and setting high expectations employees ultimately have to decide for themselves how they will perform. Most people understand this. What they are waiting for is how the company will respond. That is what you have complete control over. If done properly, it is possible that they actually will continue to support your business.
Lot's of great take aways from a bad situation. What is your approach to dealing with angry customers? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.
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