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Change how you handle angry customers

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 07:00
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All of us have encountered unhappy customers from time to time. Most of the time it happens accidentally; however, some of us can recover quickly and some seem to make it worse. I was listening to Coach Geoff Berman tell a story he learned from his kids that usually works for anyone.

Geoff began the story by saying: bet you remember as a kid playing the “Punch Buggy” game. How awesome was that for Volkswagen’s marketing! I’ll save that for another article. For this one I want you to think about what the “Punch Buggy” game was really about, and how it relates to customer service. “Punch Buggy” relates to customer service? Really, Geoff? Are you kidding me? Bear with me and I promise I’ll get you there. There is a really important customer service lesson in my story.

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So let’s look at what the kids are really doing with the “Punch Buggy” game. “Punch Buggy Red.” This game gave me a legitimate reason to punch my sister and it was ok. How cool is that! If I didn’t hit her too hard it probably went undetected by my parents (over time I learned how to do that). It didn’t take her long to figure out she can punch back, and she did. That is when I learned to add “No punch backs!”

No punch backs

Now I want you to think about your customers and the service you provide. Don’t we play the “Punch Buggy” game with them? Here’s an example. Let’s say a first-time customer comes in and you quote her a price on brakes that she feels is more than she should pay. You came very highly recommended so she decided she could trust you and let you do the job. After she got the vehicle back, whatever the original problem was (squeak, grind, pull, whatever), it’s still there. What is she going to do? She is going to “Punch.” “I spent $450 on my brakes and it is still doing the same thing I brought it in for. I knew I should have taken it somewhere else. Those Google reviews were right about you. That’s the last time I let John give me any auto advice.” So now it’s your turn. What are you going to do? I’m guessing you didn’t hear the customer say “no punch backs” so that is exactly what you do. “Can you bring it back so we can take a look at it?” Is that what they really want? To be inconvenienced and bring the car back to you only to hear you say it will be another $200 to really fix the problem. Now I know you probably won’t say that, but let’s be honest, isn’t that what they’re thinking?

Now I have to tell you that I am the luckiest man on earth because I married the most incredible woman in the world. She has made it her life’s mission to be the best mom she can be. There is no question that has rubbed off, and has helped to make me a much better father than I ever thought I could be. She has always hated the “Punch Buggy” game. It promotes the kids hitting each other. Me, I’m the dad. This is fun. Until someone gets hurt and I get a lecture. So one day she decides to play along and see if she can fix the game. She tells us that instead of a “Punch Buggy,” what if you try a “Kiss Buggy” instead? My seven-year-old loved the idea and, seeing where my wife was going with this, I decided to play along. The next thing that happened absolutely blew me away. As soon as my daughter saw a “Kiss Buggy” she said “Kiss Buggy. No kiss backs!” When she realized what she had said, she immediately took it back and said “I mean Kiss Buggy. Kiss back!” No more punching. Everyone got in on this and it became a really fun game where we were sharing love with each other and not violence. One kiss was never enough and boy did I love finding a “kiss buggy.”

Turning punches into kisses

So now I ask you, how do you turn punches into kisses? When your customer swings at you, don’t swing back. Kiss them. Remember, it takes two to tango. If you don’t fight back they will eventually give up. If you fight back with kisses, they will start kissing back. Let me demonstrate. The situation is the same. The customer is upset because the car is doing the same thing it did before you fixed it. Your previous response did not focus on the customer, it focused on the car. “Can you bring it back so we can take a look at it?” What you need to do is respond to the emotions she is feeling and just let her know you understand and that you care.

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