Charlotte Sorrentino believes the customer is not always right. Find out what can be done about it.
Sometimes the customer is wrong – so how do you get them to understand this without losing them as a customer?
If the problem just happened get a salesperson to handle it. If you don’t understand this comment then you need to learn why salespeople are so valuable to a company.
A sales manager is even better, if you have one, but some companies don’t. I said salesperson not customer service unless they are trained properly and have a vested interest in keeping the customer.
It has been my personal experience that only salespeople care about customers more than the company they work for (maybe equally.) Other departments care more about their jobs and losing one customer doesn’t always compute.
Remember this is how to handle it when the customer is wrong. It is easier when the problem is the company’s, then the problem can be solved by the company making it right. Sometimes companies don’t handle this properly either but that is for another article.
Once it has been established that the customer ordered incorrectly, when it is in stock or inventoried items there is generally a restocking fee (which can be waived) and the replacement item gets sent out. But what happens when the item is a custom-made item and isn’t returnable or has a hefty restocking fee? What do you do then?
If the customer is a good established customer the choice is simple find a compromise but what if the customer is a first-time buyer? Or the person who ordered is new to their company and they are fearful of making a costly mistake?
Customers always get concessions when they have sales to track but in the case of a new account the vendor generally doesn’t look past the initial order.
The very first thing to do is not ignore the customer call them immediately even if at this time you cannot solve the problem. Don’t let time tick away coming up with a solution. Call the customer and say you are working on it.
Secondly, apply basic principles of right and wrong to the problem. Once the cause of the problem is determined then the offerings can begin. If the customer admits they erred, then you can stand on your company’s policies, but most assuredly you will lose the customer for future business; even under these circumstances. Unless the customer needs you they will go elsewhere.
But let’s say the customer is adamant and refuses to admit they made a mistake. They say they were told something different when they placed the order then what they received? This is a sticky wicket for sure. While each case is different what you say now is critical.
First you must get the customer to understand what happened. If they are new to their company ask them to get their manager involved (this will generally save their skin and you have another contact).
Explain in a non-accusatory way the problem and how it could have happened. Then tell them what your normal company’s policy when a situation such as this occurs. This way everyone understands all aspects.
Once you get everyone on the same page whether they agree or not with how they got there it will be easier to find a compromise. You’ve already outlined the worse scenario which is the customer is stuck so anything better than that generally will work.
Lastly, make sure for the next 6 months a salesperson handles their account with kit gloves so nothing happens and if it does it is nipped in the bud quickly.
While I am sure that this may not work 100% of the time. I can honestly say I have never [not] been able to work out a compromise and keep the customer.
The only time this has happened to me is when the owner or someone else dealt with the customer then handed me the broom to sweep up the mess and get back a customer who was now lost. Does anyone know, other than a salesperson, how hard it is to get back an unhappy customer who has been allowed to stay angry?
What really always ends up happening is the company ends up giving all to the customer instead of a compromise and continued business. The problem is, now months later, all that business is lost and rarely does it come back the way it was or could have been. Why, because the customer found someone else to satisfy them.
Unless your position is business development or sales one has no clue on how hard it is to get a new customer, especially a large account. However hard it is to get a new customer, getting back a disgruntled one is a feat for a master.
Be smart when problems arise think them through. Sometimes under the best circumstances you will lose the customer but generally if the person there was new, they may be gone in a few months so keep an open door to the company as you already know the manager.
People can forget a bad incident but never forget a bad company.
About the Author
Charlotte Sorrentino has gained extensive experience in the marketing in manufacturing industries. Charlotte now works in the tablecloth and linen industry.