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.
Post Policies and Sales Agreements
Upon starting your new business, determine policies about returns and refunds and clearly post these policies so that the customer can readily see these facts. Include, where possible, this information on your receipts or sales agree- ments as well. This leaves little doubt as to the policies that you have established.
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.
Empathy is Good
You don't really have to agree with the customer in order to empathize with them. Rather, it means letting the customer know that you realize that they are upset and will do your best to alleviate the situation. Simply by showing the customer that you care about them and their problem, it is more likely that the situation will not descend into a shouting match. The simple words, "I am sorry" are often enough to settle things down in volatile circumstances.
Find the Problem
Calmly ask the unhappy customer questions to pinpoint the exact source of their unhappiness. Is the product broken or not as advertised? Is it the wrong product for the job they need? Did they find it at a lower price elsewhere? By identifying the source of the unhappiness, you can begin to make headway toward resolving the issue. Once the customer has stated the problem, repeat what you heard back to the customer to be certain that you both understand the situation.
Are There Possible Solutions?
After you know what caused the problem, you may then start offering up potential solutions if you have been authorized to do so. Maybe it is as simple as refunding their money or exchanging the product for another. Perhaps an upgrade to a better product is possible with the customer paying the difference in price. If the problem stems from the customer not adhering to the posted policies, calmly and respectfully direct their attention to where they are posted. These policies can help diffuse situations when the customer realizes that there is nothing that can really be done. But, the customer may remain upset and you will still need to keep your composure and remain calm.
Accept that not Everyone will 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. Once you have exhausted all possible options at resolving the situation but the customer remains hostile and unhappy, you are going to have to accept that 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.
About The Author
Ken Bidgood is the chief writer for, and editor of Advertising XP, there's a wealth of knowledge on the website, plus their free newsletter is well worth signing up for too. Want to read more Business articles?, just go to: http://www.advertisingxp.com/articles