A big thank you to Michael Li for suggesting this topic.
The dilemma: a customer is impatient and concerned that a resolution is taking a long time. How can you make him/her feel reassured that everything will be fine, even as you know that the customer is on edge?
- Talk, don’t write. If you are on a chat session, consider switching to the phone so you have the tone of voice to help you.
- Figure out the reason for the concern. Are there users revolting? A manager breathing down his or her neck? A personal concern of having to go home soon? Figuring out the reason for the worry allows you to build rapport and provide the right kind of reassurance (even if you still have to deal with the problem!)
- Provide objective proofs of progress if possible. “Trust me” is not nearly as convincing as pointing to a visual display or other objective sign that the process is moving along. Try, “The wheel is spinning/hourglass is emptying/line segment is moving. This means that the process is churning along. Like you, I wish it were faster but it’s progressing and the process is definitely not hung.”
- Give a time estimate if available. “The installation usually takes about 10 minutes.” can provide some peace of mind if the customer starts fretting after only a couple of minutes.
- Explain the cause of potential delays. “I see that you are converting very large files. In my experience, this can add to the processing time.”
- Try general reassurance messages. “I see it’s still spinning along”, “We’re making progress”, “We will get this installed”, “I will stay with you until the process completes.” General statements are never as good as the quantitative or qualitative assessments described above, but they can be useful.
- Consider speaking about the overall product, but only if you think the customer will be receptive. “So, how are you using the product?”, “How long have you used the product?”. If possible, make a compliment, “Your categories are very nicely structured”, “I can see that you are careful about taking backups” [only if true, of course!] Technical small talk feels less inane than general small talk and shows the customer that you are focused on their problem, not the football season.
- Give waiting options. “It looks like the process is churning along. I’m happy to babysit it and ping you when it completes if you have other items to attend to.” The customer will probably want to stay if it is critical, but having a choice restores control to the customer, which is a good thing psychologically.
- Don’t be too chatty. If you talk all the time and constantly thank the customer for his or her patience, it will seem that the process is taking even longer than it is! Try a reassurance every minute, not every 10 seconds.
- Adopt a solid tone. Try to ooze calm and an “in charge” attitude. If you are unsure of yourself, get help from someone nearby or your tone will display your uncertainty. If the customer is losing it, you must be calm for the two of you.
Do you have other techniques on reassuring customers? Please share.