Coping With Unsatisfied Customers

Unsatisfied customers are an inevitable consequence of doing business and you will run into them no matter how committed you are to seeing them all happy. There will be times when that customer is justified in being upset while there will be others where the situation was entirely out of your control. Strategies do exist where you can diffuse a situation and help a customer feel better and perhaps even turn them into a repeat buyer. In the beginning, every business owner is certain that they must retain every single customer they can but this is not an excuse to allow the business to become a veritable doormat for customers to kick around when they feel like it.

Written Policies and Sales Agreements

Before you even open up your door, take the time to set out in writing your policies on returns or refunds and be sure to place them in a place where customers can see them. If possible, try to include this same information on receipts or sales agreements. That way, there is no doubt about the terms of sale within your business.

Communicate in Calm Voice

Never lose your calm! Customers will get irate from time to time but it is your duty and that of your employees to handle that irritated customer in a calm and collected fashion. Show the customer that you care even when there is little or nothing that can be done to alleviate the situation. You will want to keep the energy level low key in an effort to diffuse a potentially volatile situation and prevent matters from spinning out of control. Do not be confrontational with the customer and use tact when speaking. Remember to stick to the facts and do not lose your dignity no matter what the customer may say. Your calm demeanor may very well rub off on your irritated customer.

Use Empathy

Empathy doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with the unhappy customer. It simply means that you let the customer know that you understand they are upset and you want to calmly find out all information so that you can best resolve the situation. By showing that you care about them and about their feelings, the situation will remain calm rather than escalating into angry words. Just stating, "I'm sorry that you are having a bad experience," can often diffuse a volatile situation.

Find the Problem

You must identify the true nature of the problem so will have to ask the customer some questions in order to do this. Is it a question of a wrong product or did they find the same thing somewhere else for less money? Resolution of any problem is only possible when you have a clear understanding of its underlying cause. Once they have told you what the problem is, repeat that back to them in your own words so that you are sure you know what has caused the situation.

Find Potential Solutions

If the problem has potential solutions that you can actually offer, relay these solutions to the customer in a calm manner. Maybe the product can simply be returned for a refund or even replaced. You may be able to upgrade to a better product and simply charge the difference in price. Any solutions that you are able to offer, do so in a very calm and rational manner. [Editor's note: I suggest asking the customer what she or he would like you to do, in a non-defensive manner. Often, what will make them happy is less than you might have offered. If you throw in the "something extra" you were prepared to give all along, you may have a cusomter for life.]

If, however, a potential solution is not possible because of a posted policy, then respectfully direct the customer's attention to that posted policy. A written policy is good to have because it may help avoid an instance where the customer turns from unhappy to irate. But, if the customer is still not happy, keep the tones low and your demeanor calm. [Better yet, says your editor, deal with the human being and not the polcy.]

Certain People Just Will Not Be Happy

You must accept that despite all of your best efforts to the contrary, some customers will never be happy. All start-up companies run into these irate customers from time to time and nothing you can do will please them. If you have exhausted all possible optionsand the customer remains hostile and unhappy, you accept that this probably will not be one of your repeat customers.

It is important not to let one bad experience get your spirits down. So long as you are running a reputable enterprise, you will be able to attract new customers that will more than compensate for the few who get away. It is never a good thing to lose a customer, but sometimes those losses help you to concentrate on growth, mentoring, and even support. Training new employees with the skills they need for conflict resolution is necessary for all start-up companies because sooner or later that unhappy customer will come walking through the door.

Visit Ken Bidgood's website at Advertising XP, visit there today for the latest Business advice, and while you're there sign up for the free newsletter. Read many more interesting articles on Business at: There's also a free mini-course available that will teach you how to get loads of free targeted traffic.

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