How To Handle Irate Clients

Jim Luff
Posted on July 11, 2012
From time to time, we all have irate clients. They can become irate over something that went really wrong, such as a late arrival, a mechanical issue or billing issues. There are tons of trigger points that might occur in our industry.
Billing issues arise most of the time over perception issues. This can include a misconception that charges start when the passenger gets in the vehicle, when in fact charges start at the specified pickup time. It doesn’t matter if the passenger is in the vehicle or not, the “meter” is running. For me, we deal with this all the time when a client orders a vehicle to travel from Bakersfield to LAX. We do the trip every day and a sedan price is $305.50. The average time that it takes to get there non-stop without traffic delays is two hours, but our price factors in 2.5 hours of travel time to LAX. Now, when the client tells us they are not ready to go and we wait 40 minutes for them to get in the vehicle, we will levy an additional charge. Some are livid. But it is their fault, and we can’t wait forever without being paid as the chauffeur is on an hourly time clock.
How you handle a complaint can mean the difference between future business with this client as well as many others. One client might tell 10 people about the bad experience with your company — and birds of a feather flock together. Each of those 10 people might tell one other person and now 20 know about it.
So, my best defense is to allow the client to dictate how he or she will resolve the issue. That’s right, let the client decide. I love to make this statement: “I’m so sorry that happened to you. What can I do to make it up to you”?
At this point, the client may want a refund. He may throw out a specific dollar amount or might want a free limo in the future. Whatever is desired, if it is within reason, I give it. I love to see how fast they calm down. However, I like to go one further. I tell them again how sorry I am and give them a gift certificate for dinner for two at a restaurant that I trade out with. I love to see the look on their faces when I do that. The purpose? I know they will tell people about the bad experience. Why not end it with them telling their friends what we did to make it right?
Never allow yourself to become confrontational, even if they are yelling at you. Remain calm and say you are sorry; tell them you want to make it right. Ask them to please calm down and just tell you what they want to be happy. Remind them you are there to help resolve this issue and make sure they know you really care.
   Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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