It’s going to happen. If you own a small business, you are inevitably going to have an angry customer. And when it happens, you’ll do what you can to remedy the situation, but you should also try to learn from the customer’s complaint and use it to improve your business. You’ll probably get another disgruntled customer before long, but if you’re careful, it won’t be for the same reason—otherwise your business will begin to develop a reputation for whatever it is you’re doing wrong!
When you get an irate customer calling or emailing you, or coming in your business with a score to settle—you need to deal with it. The customer is angry for one of two reasons: either you didn’t meet your end of the bargain, or he or she thinks you didn’t. Whatever the reason, you need to first try to work it out. Maybe it is your fault, or your employees’—take care of it. You can probably make the situation a little better by giving the customer a discount or future discount, or maybe a free item depending on what your business is. Something to show that you are willing to work to keep their business will be a great peace offering.
But what if it’s not your fault?
Sometimes you have done all you can and all you were required to, sometimes even more, but the customer still isn’t satisfied. Unfortunately, some people are like that. With one of these customers, it makes sense to cut your losses and move on. Some people will never be satisfied, and just let them go with an apology. Hold your head high and keep any negative remarks to yourself—you’ll be better off without them.
So what can you learn from this?
Most people don’t like confrontation. We try to appease others and make sure they are happy. Still, sometimes a confrontation happens. Remember the old adage: The customer is always right. Even if you aren’t in complete agreement, try to make your customer happy. In the future, you may be able to spot the “difficult” customer before situations escalate. Depending on your business, you may be able (and so desire) to avoid working with them. If one customer is taking up your time, you’re losing money on others.
If you don’t have the flexibility to discern between customers, make sure you have policies in writing somewhere, whether it’s on your website or on the back of your store receipts. That will help if a customer comes in demanding you refund money for a worn pair of shoes with no receipt. You can always override your own policies, but at least they will be there to point to if you need them.
Remember your reputation
Word travels fast, whether in a suburban community or throughout the virtual world. You want to make sure you don’t do anything to mar your business reputation while dealing with difficult customers.
Beyond actually resolving the situation with your angry customer, make sure you take a look at your business operations and try to resolve any internal issues that may have caused the problem your customer had. If you let the same issue occur too many times, your business will have a very hard time recovering its reputation.
Dealing with difficult customers is something every business owner will have to do. But they should really be few and far between, so try to focus on your happy, loyal customers who are why you’re in this business for yourself in the first place.