Receptionist etiquette tips & tricks presents: the cranky customer.

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From the server standing table-side, pen and smile at the ready.

To a coffee-toting construction crew, rising before morning.

Across our endless sea of industry exists a single, universal challenge. One that has stood the test of time and innovation, alike.

Behold: the cranky customer.

As any rookie or seasoned vet in the vast arena of customer service can attest to, interacting with a less-than-impressed buyer can be intimidating, stressful, or even a bit scary. Especially when a customer’s frustration is a direct result of something your company did (or did not do).

Thankfully, with a little etiquette magic and wisdom from the professionals, there are ways to power through these moments with poise and empathy. Plus, as a business owner or employee on the front lines, your genuine desire to fulfill a customer’s needs is the most important asset in curing a cranky customer.

Which is great news, as your success may be hinging on it.

Enter: The Reach of the Customer

In a time not so long ago, stories of lackluster customer service traveled at word-of-mouth speed. This is meant quite literally. Information passing through the phone or in person was (and remains to be) powerful in coloring a company’s reputation.

So, what’s changed?

Two words: social media.

From websites devoted to customer evaluations to the not-so-formal but far-reaching Facebook post, the consumer soapbox has been taken to a whole new level. What’s more? Your potential new customers are paying attention.

Think about it: if you’re in the market for a product, are you more inclined to call a company with mediocre ratings and “meh” reviews, or a business boasting five-star testimonials and a trusting customer base?

In short, your customer service offering bears weight and the words of consumers have a profound impact on your business.

In failing to satisfy the needs of a reasonably grumpy guest, the opportunity to convert a non-believer into a *gasp* brand ambassador is lost.


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Etiquette as a Superpower

Here at Ruby, receptionists have an eerie ability to temper the testy. We answer for over 8,000 companies and a single receptionist can take upwards of 250 calls a day. With a sample size like that, we’re bound to get some sour grapes from time to time.

What have we learned over the years? A sincere desire to turn someone’s day around (and leading with a little empathy) can have tremendous results. In showing customers that their experience matters and working to remedy the situation, you’re strengthening the foundation of their trust in your brand.

Big time brownie points.

And potentially a few future referrals.

So how do we do it?

The next time you set out to improve a customer’s mood, give these tips a try:

  • Listen. Customers want to tell you what’s wrong and are, in turn, giving you the chance to fix a problem before they walk away from your business. Give them room to explain, complain, and tell you what’s bothering them. Refrain from interrupting, and when it’s your turn to speak…
  • Acknowledge frustration. A little empathy goes a long way and ultimately, we all just want to be heard. Slip in phrases like, “I can certainly see why you’re upset! I’m going to do everything I can to help get this resolved.”
  • Let them know what you can do. We can’t emphasize this enough. In any situation, speaking to what you’re able to do for a customer is infinitely more helpful than breaking down what you cannot. However, if you are being asked to do something that lies outside of your realm, we recommend you…
  • Frame your role. If you’re not the expert your customer is looking for, briefly explain what you actions you can take, and assure them you’re doing everything in your power to help.
  • Apologize, and make it count. A simple “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. There’s a whoooole post dedicated to apologies here.
  • Offer a solution and stick to it. With the exception of losing your cool, failing to do what you say you’ll do—especially when tensions are already high—is a surefire way to obliterate any chance you had at repairing a damaged relationship. 
  • Follow up! Even if a customer leaves your office or ends a phone call singing your praises, seal the deal after the tides have calmed with a hand-written note. Never underestimate the power of a proper WOW.

Ruby to the Woo-scue

You know tending to the needs of your customers is key to a successful relationship. And that sometimes, you’ll be wooing your way back into good graces.

But, how do you manage this while running your business?

Are unanswered phone calls the root of your customer’s frustrations? Or are you losing the opportunity to right a wrong to an impersonal voicemail box?

How many customers are calling your competitors when they don’t feel taken care of?

Fortunately, there’s a solution.

With our small business roots, Ruby understands the plight of the entrepreneur. When you’re wearing a thousand different hats and dealing with everything from billing to process improvement to delivering your actual product or service, making time to pick up the phone and connect with your customers can be tough.

That’s where we come in. Delighting callers and preserving connections while building up your reputation for a stand-alone customer service experience is what we’re here to do. Our mission is to help you grow, one happy caller at a time.

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