No tax preparer wants their clients to be unhappy, but frustrations are sometimes unavoidable. Knowing how to deal with angry and unhappy customers will help you to avoid even worse situations. Instead of losing a client, you just may gain a lifelong customer who raves about your customer service.
1. Listen intently
It’s a natural tendency to react and respond instead of really listening, especially if we feel we’re being unfairly criticized. Jumping straight into defense or an explanation, however, will only escalate the situation. No matter what your client is unhappy about, hear them out without jumping in and without defensive or angry body language. If you feel your mind wandering toward your response, make an effort to refocus on what they’re saying.
2. Practice empathy
When you make an effort to truly hear an unhappy client, it’s easier to feel empathy for their situation. Even if you don’t think their complaints are valid, do your best to put yourself in their position. Remember that very often, the client isn’t angry with you personally but with the situation as a whole.
In the tax industry, the occasional client may get upset when they were expecting a refund but learned they owe taxes instead. If they angrily demand an explanation, imagine what they’re feeling and that this could put them in a difficult financial situation they didn’t expect to face. Trying to see from their perspective will help you keep your cool and understand how you can resolve the situation.
3. Acknowledge their feelings
When you do respond, start by acknowledging their frustrations and, if necessary, apologizing. Knowing that they have been heard and validated is enough to make most unhappy customers willing to listen and seek a resolution. Even if you’re not at fault for the situation, a simple apology can make the client feel like you’re in their corner.
Maintain proper business communication etiquette as you respond, staying calm, friendly, and professional even if you are upset too. If you’re responding to an unhappy client via email, make an extra effort to follow email best practices and communicate empathy through your tone.
4. Offer to help or make things right
If you or one of your employees is at fault in the situation, offer to make things right however you can. If a customer is frustrated with a lack of communication about questions they have about their return, apologize and make answering those questions a top priority. If you did make a significant error, it may be appropriate to discount your fee.
If a client’s frustrations are beyond your control – such as an unexpected tax liability – you can still offer your support by acknowledging their feelings, helping them understand why the results were different than they expected, explaining the IRS collection process, and showing them how they can set up a payment plan with the IRS. While they may still be unhappy about the situation, they’ll likely be thankful for your help.
5. Follow up
After the initial situation has been successfully resolved, it’s often helpful to reach out to a tax client and thank them for their business, their understanding, and their continued loyalty. A simple email thanking them and offering to answer any other questions they may have can go a long way in showing that you truly do care about their complaint.
If the situation wasn’t successfully resolved in the initial interaction, reaching out via email to once again offer your help and/or your apologies may be enough to win the customer over. Once they’ve had a chance to cool down, they may be more ready to listen.
When you remain calm, treat unhappy clients with empathy and respect, and offer to help in whatever ways you can, most clients will respond likewise, and you can maintain your professional relationship for years to come.
This article was last edited on July 23, 2021.