Sometimes making a customer happy is a tall order and there will be plenty of times where it’s an impossible task. Some will leave unhappy, some will head straight for social media, and others will never return.
No small business is so healthy that single customers don’t count. Not only is it the right thing to do, it makes business sense to try to preserve customer relationships. When problems develop, here’s how to handle them with class.
At Least Listen
Even if you can’t give them what they want, sometimes listening is enough. At their core, people want to know that you care, will listen, and concede if you are in the wrong. They’re probably going to give you more information than you need. Some of that information may be about a fight with their children, computer crashing, and that person in the checkout line.
While you might be mentally glancing at your watch hoping the conversation will soon end, listen for ways to be sympathetic. Even if the person doesn’t get what they want, at least there’s a chance you won’t get the negative social media review.
Speaking of Social Media
Remember that social media sites, including popular review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, are not places for a debate. The Internet gives everybody a voice and they aren’t afraid to use it. The 21st century business owner has to have a thick skin because scathing remarks, the Internet, and your business will go hand-in-hand.
Responding to a social media complaint is easy. Thank them for taking the time to offer their experiences, tell them you would like the opportunity to resolve the situation, and ask them to contact you or message you privately with their contact information. Social media isn’t the place to address the concern. That should always be done privately.
Don’t let it Linger
Some people call or send an email demanding a response. The longer you wait, the more upset they will be. This is because your inaction tells them you don’t care about their concern. The longer they think about the situation, the more unpleasant the phone call will be. Take care of it now.
You’ve heard it before. Very few disputes are completely one-sided. It’s far more likely that you had a larger role in the customer’s problem than you think. Whatever your part in it, however small, take responsibility and apologize.
Provide a Solution
Once you strip away the emotion, and let’s admit it, the need to feel like you won, you’ll find that often, what the customer is looking for in a resolution isn’t going to cost you much. Even if you believe you’re right, offer a resolution. If there’s a cost factor, offer to split the difference or if that doesn’t work, honor their request.
Is it worth it?
Disputes can get out of hand rapidly. They can escalate into something far bigger than warranted. Before you find yourself too deep, ask yourself which will cost you less in the end – the man-hours and human capital you invested to assure that the customer never returns or resolving the problem quickly by giving them what they want. Often, the latter makes more sense.