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Box Office 101 - Handling Angry Ticket Holders

July 17, 2014 3:21 PM
Posted by Ivan B
Customer Service Success With the Irate Ticket Holder
by Ed GagnonEd Gagnon on 07/08/2014

If you ever doubted that customer service has a bottom-line impact, consider this: a customer who complains and gets their complaint resolved quickly is three times more likely to buy from you again than the customer who has a complaint that goes unresolved.

That's the difference between an 82 percent repurchase opportunity and a 29 percent opportunity. So how do you resolve a complaint? It starts with understanding that complaints are often accompanied by emotion, and the quicker you can reduce that emotion and get control of the conversation, the quicker you can resolve that complaint.

Here's the technique I've used in training account representatives and front-line employees to "LEAD" the customer to a solution.
Step 1: Listen to the Customer

While conducting training for one of my clients a few years ago, I put the class into small role-playing groups, where each group had an employee using this technique, an "irate customer" and an evaluator to offer feedback to the employee.

I immediately began to watch the group in the far left corner of the room because the person playing the irate customer was very loud, his arms were flying all around  he was essentially playing the angry customer really well. But I was wondering what in the world the employee was going to do to settle him down.

As other groups stopped their role plays to watch that one group, I noticed that the employee wasn't saying a word. He was just making good eye contact and nodding; he was letting the customer vent. Then the employee finally asked, "Now, did that happen last Tuesday or Thursday?" All of a sudden, the customer stopped. He looked down and thought, and then he said, "Well I think it happened on Tuesday." But he had lost his steam, his emotion had dropped and the employee had begun to take control.

Why? Because he asked a question  an objective question requiring a fact. He forced the customer to think practically, logically and factually.

So in this first step, let them vent and reduce their emotions. Then start asking objective questions to make them think more rationally; this helps the customer regain his or her composure, because it's hard to think logically and still be emotional. Also, this provides you with more information that could help you resolve the issue.
Step 2: Empathize with their Situation

Convey that you understand their feelings by calmly saying things such as "I can see how frustrating this must be" and nodding occasionally. By expressing empathy and offering appropriate body language, you're less likely to come across as being argumentative. Empathy helps the customer see that you care, and this helps ease emotion.
Step 3: Accept Responsibility

The third step sometimes requires that we say "I'm sorry" or "I apologize." Even though many of us are not comfortable with this because we didn't personally cause the problem, it is still necessary because many irate customers won't settle down until they hear those magic words.

Here's one story from an NFL client:

Well before game time, a fan walked out of the concourse toward Bill, a seat attendant. Bill asked the ticket holder if she needed help finding her seat. The fan said "No, I've been here before." She walked down a few steps and turned left down the row to a seat.

A few minutes later, two couples walked up to Bill, and he asked if they needed help finding their seats. The fans said "No, we've been here before." So they walked down a few steps and turned left down the same row. They walked right toward the lady. Bill watched as they talked with the lady. She then stood up and the couples sat down. Then the lady walked toward Bill and started complaining, griping and getting angry at Bill. She sat in the wrong seat and felt embarrassed, and she took it out on Bill.

Bill listened and let her vent, but she still wouldn't settle down. Finally, Bill said, "Ma'am, what can I do to make this right?" She responded, "Apologize." So Bill replied, "Okay. Ma'am, I'm really sorry that happened." She thanked Bill and walked off.

Bill said "I'm sorry," but he said it in an empathetic way, not in a way where he personally accepted responsibility. Sometimes we have to find a way to say those magic words to appease a customer even when they are in the wrong.
Step 4: Deliver on a Remedy

Finally, come to an agreement on the resolution and take action. Realize that there are times when you cannot resolve the issue yourself because it's not within your authority. Remedy these situations by getting your supervisor involved. If you've done a great job with the first three steps of LEAD, you will be handing off a customer who has calmed down and can provide helpful information to the supervisor tasked with resolving the issue.

The whole technique flows like this:

    Listen and ask objective questions
    "I can understand how that could frustrate you."
    "I'm sorry you're in that situation."
    "Let's see what we can do about this for you."

When you have a ticket holder who cared enough to complain, don't avoid the emotion. Work through it with good listening, objective questions and great customer service so you can LEAD them to a resolution, thus greatly increasing the likelihood of continued business.

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