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June 1, 2021

How to Deal With Angry Clients in Field Services


Table of Contents

Tired of paperwork?

It doesn't matter what type of field service you offer, chances are that you will always encounter a client that is not satisfied with your work. As a business owner, you should always be prepared for when such an event will occur and create an idea on how to handle it.

When dealing with angry clients, the primary goal is to find out the root cause of the problem whilst calming them down. When it comes to field services, a client can be triggered from a variety of reasons - including negligence on the side of the service providers, unclear expectations that lead to poor results, requests for extensions in timeline and budget, and more. More often than not, customers show emotional distress when they are required to invest extra time and money into something that is not their responsibility.

Trying to avoid angry customers is optimal but inevitably things will go wrong from time to time. Let’s start by breaking down a few scenarios that trigger angry clients, as well as a list of possible mitigation actions for each option.

Scenario 1: Breaking bad news to the clients

Let’s assume that you’re a manager of an HVAC company that offers plumbing services, among others. Recently, you signed off on a rewiring project that is taking more time than expected. Part of the delay stems from you ordering the wrong replacement parts. Reordering will not only take longer but will also require you to raise the price of the service otherwise the newly incurred expense will put you at a loss. 

If, however, you do not reorder the replacement material then repairing the customer's malfunctioning HVAC system will not be possible. None of these announcements will be pleasant news for the client but there are ways that you can handle the situation right away. Let’s learn how.

Solution 1: Stay one step ahead

Communicate the problem to the client as soon as possible. Allow them to digest the information beforehand so that there can be room for re-negotiation. Letting the client know about the issue at the last minute may severely affect the relationship and contract at hand.

Solution 2: Problem-solve

Before breaking the news to the client, think about whether there are other ways through which the problem could be resolved. Instead of reordering new replacement material, could you have tried finding used parts that could do the job? Again, you would have to trim your profit margins at the cost of retaining a relationship with the client.

Solution 3: The client is the smartest person in the room

If the problem has stemmed from a mistake made by the client then make sure you offer comfort. Rather than pointing out the mistake they made, try to go for something along the lines of: 

“This is a common mistake that many of our clients make” or “These kinds of mistakes happen now and then, no need to worry - we will fix it”

By following this approach, you are trying to minimize any unexpected outbursts of anger that may evolve from the client.

Scenario #2: An angry customer leaves a bad review online

You were hired to do the lawn for a household in one of the neighborhoods you serve. The job was completed successfully, and you were under the impression that the client was satisfied. All of a sudden you get a notification of a bad review on your Google My Business page. You are shocked and confused at the same time. Some customers just like to complain, others may have a legitimate excuse. Here are some expert tips on how you should approach such a case. 

Solution 1: Request feedback

Start by reaching out to the customer, and ask for feedback. In most cases, they will let you know about their frustrations. In that case, try to revisit the site and offer your support. However, there are cases when the customer won't answer the call - in that case, you may want to reach out to your happy customers and request positive reviews. Doing so will minimize the negative effect of a negative review.

💡Bonus Tip: 

There are many resources online that provide a clear guide on how you can request reviews on Google. Click here to see the official Google documentation. 

Solution 2: Don’t get caught up in one review

If you recognize that the review is insulting or inaccurate then reach out to the customer and apologize for the mistake. Make sure you let them know that their experience does not reflect that of other customers. Here is a template that you can follow:

"Thanks for your review, Margery. I apologize that our service wasn't up to your standards. Your experience isn't reflective of our other customers' experience… but we're always looking to improve our service, so we appreciate your letting us know."

In the end, if the review is truly biased and unreasonable, other potential clients will recognize and ignore it.

There are endless scenarios in which a client can get angry and frustrated. The important thing is to always keep improving your company’s services so that the probability of an angry client declines.

  • Where should I begin?
  • What changes should I make?
  • How can I track my progress?

Here are a few actions that you can take right away.

Train Field Workers on Company Priorities

The responsible field workers should understand that consumer satisfaction is pivotal to ensure the company’s success. We’re living in a connected world, where words can spread like wildfire. A dissatisfied customer can leave a negative review online that can potentially kill your business.  For this reason, all field workers need to have a solid set of soft skills that will allow them to reason and empathize with the client. 

These interpersonal skills serve not only to tone down angry customers but to also help staff members control their own stress and emotions in scenarios similar to the ones we talked about before. To better learn how to adopt adequate behaviors with difficult customers, field workers can complete the ISO 10002: 200 quality standard - which provides a clear guideline for complaints handling in businesses.

Do Exactly What’s Expected of You

Avoiding angry customers is the way to go if you don’t want to deal with them. The easiest way to avoid these customers is to make sure that they are satisfied with the field service they are being provided with. This does not only mean finishing the job, it means finishing the job well.

For example, if your team is sub-contracted for windows in a new residential building, then the top priority for the team is to deliver the service promptly. All clients love fast and reliable service, and if your team can provide that for them, chances are the client will be satisfied and happy.

To deliver services on time, managers have to know how productive their employees are during working hours. Traditionally, managers were required to monitor the team's activity by joining them on job sites. In cases when they could not then they had to assess productivity from the timesheets that they are quired to keep track of. 

Today, this methodology is considered outdated and a waste of time. Managers no longer need to be attentive to their employees; a simple time management tool can solve a dozen human resource problems at once. Modern applications allow managers to view a detailed timeline of their team's activity that displays the department, job site, the number of hours worked towards that particular job site, geolocation data (from where the employee clocked in and -out), and more. 

Apart from the insight these platforms provide, work towards those ‘required timesheets’ is significantly reduced. Not only will the people responsible for timesheets have an easier time collecting working hours, they will also have more time working on developing strategies for personal development of staff - i.e. soft-skills training sessions.

Finally, with the help of time tracking apps like Atto, you will know the true value of your service. Everything is documented on a platform that you can use to develop arguments against biased claims made by the party that caused a particular problem. If the project is delayed because the client is not providing certain information then you can take note:

“Client was late on providing us with the planimetry of the house”

By doing so you go back and build your argument based on the factual notes. Sometimes the client is not at fault, if the problem arose as a result of negligence from your team then an activity timeline should provide you with all the information you need to identify which individual or group is responsible for the problem.

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