This has been an interesting year (to say the least). Even in the middle of the intensity of the busy tax filing season, we can occasionally become the target for somebody’s frustration.

Over the years, and especially when things are busy and stressful, we’ve had to learn how to best handle matters when a client is becoming (for some reason or another) very upset.

Again, this is rare — but in some cases, the client displaces their anger towards the IRS and puts it into their interactions with us. 

(“No, we actually aren’t the ones who are sending you all of that audit correspondence. That would be the nice people at the Department of Treasury.”)

However, what we’ve discovered is that when we handle it rightly, we can leave upset clients even happier with us than even some of our most “reliable” and happy clients.

We want to have an actual plan for handling such matters so that in the rare instance it does occur, we handle things properly.

Luis Serrano’s System To Turn Upset Clients Into Happy Clients

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” -Oscar Wilde

In ANY business it is inevitable that there will be an instance of misplaced expectations between the customer and business.

And you can choose to allow these interactions to happen at random, trusting in the emotional competency of your staff … or, well, you can develop procedures that will make things right and do so almost every time.

A simple system to move towards a happy resolution can be summarized by the acronym “HEAR”…

1) Hear the customer and don’t interrupt.

You don’t interrupt for two reasons:

A. It’s rude to interrupt

B. When people are upset they practice what they are going to say. And they practice it from the beginning. If you interrupt, they are going to start all over again and go off-script

So … don’t interrupt. Obviously, if the client is getting loud and unruly you may need to quietly interrupt. But, in almost all cases, don’t.

2) (Empathize) Mirror back  with something like:

“I can understand why you’re upset.  I would be upset too.” Or, “I’m really sorry that happened to you.”

A great strategy is to repeat the last two to three words the person spoke as a question. This mirroring strategy not only shows that you’re listening but leaves space for the person to explain further.  Here’s a simple example;

Customer, ‘I was supposed to receive a call-back and no one ever called!’

Representative, ‘No one called?

Customer, ‘No, no one called and I had rescheduled another appointment.’  

(By mirroring we get more information as to what’s going on.)

Representative, ‘I’m so sorry you had to reschedule your appointment because we dropped the ball.  That is extremely frustrating and unacceptable.’

(This mirroring technique works wonders in all relationships in communicating at a deeper level.  Try it today, see if the person doesn’t explain further when you respond with a mirror of the last few words as a question.)

3) Ask: “What can I do to make this right?”

It doesn’t get much easier than that. Often, you won’t even have to ask the question because it’s pretty obvious what needs to be done. What’s most important in this step is that the attitude is right. Empathy is everything!

4) Resolve – Unless the request is absolutely ridiculous, DO IT!

What’s so great about this approach (and this has been studied, proven, and established with myriad scholarly studies): 

Often you leave the customer even HAPPIER with you than before the problem occurred!

Yes, that’s actually a likely scenario because they will appreciate how you bent over backward to make them happy again.

When you put in place a regularized plan, good things happen.

We’re here to help. Let me know if you have any questions. Use this: 

I’m grateful for our partnership and for your referrals.


Luis Serrano

(619) 997-4185

Serrano Bookkeeping


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