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We have To Talk

By Rebecca Hagel
Posted Monday, October 4, 2004

"We have to talk," Suzy says to Joe after they had been dating awhile.

'Is it suddenly hot in here? Why does it feel like the room is spinning? Why are my knees buckling?" Joe thinks. But deep down he knows why he is getting so nervous.

Those four words -- "we have to talk" -- can strike fear in the heart of the intended recipient. The recipient has done wrong. There is a bad situation. This bad situation needs to be rectified before the relationship can continue. Failure to fix the situation means more talking, possibly a fight brought out in anger, or maybe even the end of the relationship.

This is important.

Listen...if Suzy didn't care about Joe, she wouldn't bother talking to him about the problems in the relationship. She'd just slip out of the relationship without any warning. But the fact that she wants to talk to Joe is a very good sign. She wants to work on the relationship. She wants this relationship to continue.

It's the silent ones you have to be careful around. They are the ones who could stuff their frustrations and walk out the door, never to be seen again.

Actually, that last line was referring to your customers.

Sure, no one likes to be criticised, or worse yet, get a tongue lashing from an unsatisfied or upset customer. But if a customer is taking the time to voice their displeasure, then there is a good chance you can save the relationship.

I've done this in my own business. A customer requested a refund, and told me why he wanted the refund. He wasn't overly polite with his words. I cheerfully gave him his refund, and then took the time to talk to him. He told me what was wrong with my product, and how I could improve it.

You see, he wanted to still be my customer, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered telling me how to improve my business. He wouldn't have cared. And indeed, he did stay with my business, and made several purchases.

If you encounter a customer who isn't just unsatisfied but also upset, the first thing you should do is validate his feelings. You can show empathy. One way to do this is to paraphrase what they're saying and repeat it back to them. This shows them that you're listening, and that you understand what they're saying.

Generally this will calm them down. Until they are calmed down, it's very difficult to speak logically with a customer about the real issue. Anger is a raw emotion that doesn't go together well with logic. Once you gently put the anger aside, then you can tackle the underlying issue.

Whatever the underlying issue is, you need to make the outcome of this discussion a HAPPY one for the customer. You have a chance to not only avoid losing a customer, but turning this into someone who will rave about your superb customer service.

About the Author
Rebecca Hagel is the author of "The Essential Business Success Package." Get set to open your mind and spirit to online marketing success. Go to (


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