Dealing with Difficult Customers

Strategy Plan One

February 3, 2012 

As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we all face the occasional customer that is not happy about a product, service, staff or the business itself.  Here are some helpful tips to alleviate pressures and turn a consumer from angst to repeat customer.

Take the time to listen to the full concerns of the customer    

Spend time with the customer to try and resolve.  You are in the game of building customers and your business survival depends on the customer, so invest time to resolve.  When a complaint comes forward, the customer wants to be heard.  Don’t be confrontational, but listen and be patient and you will notice a natural decline in the tone and behaviour of the customer.  After the customer’s initial rant, he will be looking for a response from you.  Take this as the opportunity to resolve and build a relationship.

Right or wrong, build a solid relationship with the disgruntled customer

Engage in conversation with the customer; this discussion is a two-way conversation.  Be empathetic towards the customer (not to be phoney, but be genuine in your actions).  Value the feedback and let the customer know that.  These simple methods of tactful communications will get the consumer on your side.

Right or wrong, use strong negotiation skills to find common ground 

The customer may never be happy and may want you to do everything under the sun to make the situation right, including providing the goods or service for free.  Depending on the severity of the scenario, you may have to provide something for free or an alternate product or service at cost.  With the relationship of trust you have built with your customer, you have an opportunity to mitigate the damage and find a mutually acceptable position.  Find what would make you and the customer happy.  If you have moved miles to that mutual ground, don’t be afraid to back down if the customer is still unreasonable.  As a minimum, depending on your jurisdiction, you will have to adhere to consumer regulations around refunds and honouring warranties…no sense in arguing that point.  Leave the scenario knowing you did your best to resolve and that you put effort in to building a relationship and a repeat customer.

Where the customer is clearly wrong, tactfully & transparently state your company’s position

A small fraction of the disgruntled will be completely unreasonable.  Be open and transparent, and inform the customer of your policies and inform of impacts of collective scenarios (such as honouring every complaint in a similar manner).  The customer may leave unhappy but you need to be consistent in your business practices.

Learning experience to build a better Customer Relationship Management Plan

Every scenario you encounter in your business is a learning opportunity. The customer complaint process forms part of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Plan.  Be prepared – part of your business planning exercise would be to build theCRMinto the operational plan.  Be prepared in advance with policies and procedures to handle challenging customers.  Ensure staff is trained to handle customers in an appropriate manner.

Whatever customer challenges arise, be prepared in your business and handle tactfully and professionally.  Your end goal should be to always find mutual resolution and to turn those angry customers into happy return customers.

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

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