Many companies are turning away possible loyal customers, because they do not know how to turn a complaining customer into a thankful customer who will come back to buy from you again. Here are some suggestions to deal with with cranky customers.
Firstly, I think that you have to put yourself in your customer’s shoes – why do they consider it necessary to come into the store to complain? Then ask yourself, what will resolve your customer’s problems?
If someone is angry or upset, it is because they feel injured or cheated in some way. Your job is to let the customer vent and to listen attentively in order to understand the source of that frustration. When you do that, you send the message that you care about them and their problems.
If you treat the customer politely, understand what their problem is and give some kind of resolution to their woes – then you will have a happy customer again. Realistically though there are always some people who just like to complain or are complaining in order to gain something.
Firstly the No No’s
Don’t lecture or talk down to your customer. I was once turned from annoyed to absolutely furious when instead of a refund for a fault on their side – I received a lecture on what I should have done instead.
Don’t promise things that you cannot produce – this will only escalate the problem.
Don’t be a “jobsworth” – that is don’t suck the air through your teeth and say – “can’t do that – it’s more than my job is worth”. Your role is to find a solution to the problem that your customer has.
Don’t stand over your customer – especially if you are a man talking to a woman or anyone talking to an elderly customer. This is intimidating.
Alternatively don’t be too timid either – they want to know that you are empowered to solve the problem. Also bullies will only feel that they can be more demanding.
Do not lose your temper, become abusive or difficult, no matter how tempting – this will only escalate the problem.
Don’t try and cut them off, don’t urge them to calm down, switch off from what they are saying, instead, listen carefully to what the problem is.
Anger is a natural, self-defensive reaction to a perceived wrong. If there is a problem with your company’s product or service, some frustration and disappointment is justified. Don’t fuel their anger by not understanding the complaint or not seeming to want to solve it.
Do not question their understanding of the problem or question as to whether they have the correct dates/time/figures etc. Seeming to place blame onto the customer will only inflame the situation.
Do not blame your company, or say “it’s a common problem”, not only will this annoy the customer more, but you open your company up to litigation or bad press.
Now The Must Do’s
Be polite at all times.
Move to a quieter area of the store if possible – letting them know it is so that you can give them your total attention.
If possible sit down with them – it is much harder to be annoyed when sitting and it also shows that you are there to spend time talking to them.
Give them your name and assure them that you are able to solve their problem.
Be confident and project a confident, caring attitude.
Put yourself in the customer’s place and try to see the situation from their perspective.
Spend the first minutes of the conversation listening and being seen to listen.
Once they have given you the details – summarize them back to them to show that you have understood.
If you do not understand what the problem is – ask leading questions so that you do.
At this point your customer should be a little calmer and understanding that you are there to solve the problem for them.
Apologize, emphasize and solve the problem.
If it is a problem that is easily solved – such as a faulty item then offer a refund or exchange (depending upon your store policy) then solve it very quickly and with good grace and an apology!
Offer a solution to the problem giving details of what you can do, when you will do it by. If it is not an immediately solvable problem then give an estimated time as to when it will be solved and take your customer’s contact details.
If store policy states that you cannot refund, make good or exchange, then find some other way of compensating them such as priority service, gift wrapping, credit notes etc. If this is not possible politely explain why you cannot resolve the problem.
Solve the Problem: Make the calls, contact the staff etc.
Follow up with the customer as promised, giving updates as necessary.
Thank them for their patience and understanding and assure them that you would love to see them back as customers.
Remember: It is not whether or not you have a problem, or even what the problem is – the mark of a good business is how you solve the problems!
About the Author
Lee Lister, writes as The Biz Guru, for a number of web sites including her own. With over 20 year’s management and business consultancy experience with businesses large and small.