Why The Angry Customer Can Be A Golden Opportunity
TALE OF THE SALE:
Bzzz Bmmm Bzzzz Bmmm! Sammy Sales looked down at the buzzing, vibrating phone on his desk. The Caller ID said it was JJK Company, which Sammy had closed about 6 months ago. He assumed they were calling for another project, and his eyes lit up. That changed quickly after he spoke into the phone with an extremely energetic and enthusiastic voice: “Helllllo Pete! How can I be of service on this beautiful day?” What Sammy heard was NOT AT ALL what he was expecting. “You can be of service by crediting my account and taking your piece of junk equipment out of my factory before you get me fired!”, Pete said.
Before Sammy could respond, Pete continued his rant by saying how he’d stuck his neck out for Sammy and convinced his entire team that Sammy’s equipment was reliable and would make JJK more efficient. On and on he went while Sammy listened. You see, Sammy is a seasoned pro and a top performer. This isn’t the first time he’s been yelled at by an angry customer – and it won’t be the last. When Pete was finished, Sammy chose his next words carefully.
Sammy Sales started by telling Pete that he was sorry the machine was down and that Pete’s team was upset about it. Quickly, Sammy followed that up by telling Pete how he knew an apology didn’t mean much in the moment and did nothing to help Pete with his situation. Before Pete could respond, Sammy continued calmly: “Pete, a quality issue is never a good thing, but you are about to experience the true character of our company”.
Sammy then described the plan of attack. Within the hour, there would be an emergency meeting of all stakeholders at Sammy’s company. After that, they would communicate the strategy to Pete and provide progress updates via email or phone twice a day. Finally, Sammy asked the magic question. It made total sense to Pete and his team but surprised them at the same time. “Pete, when will this line-down situation cause you to miss a customer delivery?”. Pete explained that they had about six days of manufacturing time before shipments would be at risk of running late.
Over the next three days, the two companies had a total of seven conference calls and exchanged over 100 emails. With each call, JJK was calmer and had more confidence in the plan that Sammy’s team had put together. On Day 4, Sammy called Pete and said, “We just booked flights and will be at your place with two engineers at 10 a.m. tomorrow. They think they can program the fix in less than a day and get you back up and running.” Pete was so excited to tell his team.
Once the team was on-site, it took only about two hours to get the equipment back up and running. Pete asked if they had a flight back in the afternoon or later tonight, and Sammy told him that they’d scheduled the flight for the next morning. Pete then asked if the their team would stay there for the afternoon and monitor the equipment to ensure the fix was solid. Sammy and the team agreed.
Sammy asked if JJK would be open to having dinner to explain what happened, why it happened, and why it won’t happen again. The JJK team agreed. They had a nice time while learning more about the issue, which turned out to be a glitch that was probably caused by a JJK employee who had not been fully trained how to use the machine. JJK was back in business – and so was the relationship between Sammy and his customer.
Lesson from this Tale of the Sale:
Sammy didn’t make excuses when the call came in. Sometimes when a customer has an issue, egos get in the way and hostility starts to build. If emotions take over, you can forget very quickly that customers pay the bills. So, take a deep breath and let the customer vent. When they’re done, take a play from Sammy’s playbook. You’ll come out stronger in the end because the way you react to a customer issue is one of the most underestimated opportunities for relationship-building in sales.
Sammy stepped up and showed his customer that both he and his company had their back. He communicated clearly and directly that the issue would get fixed. Sammy provided updates along the way and showed extreme intuition by asking Pete when a missed delivery would cause issues for JJK's customers. Sammy's team went on-site to Pete’s company and solved the problem, showing JJK how serious they were about making things right. Sammy and his company ended up turning a customer fire into one of the strongest and most respected relationships they hold with anyone in the market. Two years later JJK has 4 different machines that were sold to them by Sammy. The way Sammy reacted was the difference between one returned machine worth $0 and four sales worth over a million dollars in revenue. Next time your customer calls with a major issue be a Sammy not a dummy.
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