Even if you sell quality products and deliver your products in a timely manner, you’re still bound to have to deal with irate customers at some point in time. Sometimes they are mad because you are completely in the wrong but most of the time, they are mad due to something beyond your control. Here’s 4 tips to remember the next time you’re in a bad situation with a customer
Keep Your Cool, Listen and Empathize
Your customer might cuss you out over the phone or they might make ridiculous demands. No matter what, you should never lose your cool or be sarcastic in any way. In practice, this is easier said than done and if you feel like you’re going to lose it, hand the phone to someone else.
We had one customer who was absolutely livid that her order arrived one day late (she paid for next day delivery and the post office botched it up). We were on the phone and she started the conversation by dropping f-bombs all over the place.
“Why can’t you people f-ing get the delivery date straight. I f-ing was relying on you for this order and now its f-ing worthless to me now. ”
She then proceeded on a caustic tirade that was so insulting that steam started rising up through my ears and I could feel the pphh sound rising from my throat. I was so close to losing it and so ready to drop some f-bombs of my own, that I handed the phone over to my wife (the supervisor).
For some reason, as soon as my wife got on the phone, the customer started to calm down. She expressed her deepest empathy for the customer’s situation. She didn’t say much, simply listened to all of the ranting and ended up apologizing to patch things up even though it was not our fault. In retrospect, the customer just wanted someone to yell at and listen to her complaints.
Pick Your Battles
Every now and then, you’ll get a customer that is simply a pain in the ass. They will complain and complain about a product that they purchased from you. They’ll rant about how the shipping was late and how the product did not meet their satisfaction etc… They may demand to return the product even though they have well exceeded the return policy time frame. They may have physically damaged the goods themselves and pretend that the product arrived that way.
These types of customers usually cause a huge stink and don’t back down even though they have violated your store policies. To top it off, they are usually extremely rude. When dealing with these types of people, you have to ask yourself whether its worth your time to oppose them.
We once had a customer who returned one of our products to us that was clearly used. When we contacted him, he was adamant that the product was brand new when he shipped it back to us and that he was absolutely appalled that we were accusing him of returning a used item. He then proceeded to go off on a rant about how he was being mistreated as a customer and how he would post negative comments about our store as a result.
Even though we clearly explained our store policies on returnable items, the discussion was going nowhere because the customer refused to listen. As tempting as it was to tell him to go to hell and refuse to refund him the money, we ultimately decided to give him the refund and take the loss. We easily could have suffered several hours of mental anguish over this and it simply wasn’t worth it.
Whenever you’re in this situation, think about how much your time is worth compared to the dollar amount that you are arguing over. Chances are, your time is worth much more.
The Customer is Not Always Right But Don’t Rub it in
I don’t know which marketing campaign started this ridiculous “customer is always right” statement, but nothing could be farther from the truth. In many cases, the customer is wrong or misinformed because they simply did not read the FAQ or product descriptions. Unfortunately when they complain, none of this really matters to them. To quell any misunderstandings a customer may have, it is absolutely important to clearly document your policies on your website.
Especially when the customer is at fault, make sure you politely explain yourself and guide them to the proper webpage that documents your store policies in writing. Make sure you are extremely courteous and humble as the customer will not like being told that they are mistaken.
We had one customer who wanted to make a return over 60 days after their purchase date. According to our return policy which is clearly documented in 2 separate places on our website, a customer must request a return authorization within 15 days of their date of purchase. By pointing the customer to a page that clearly outlined all of our policies in writing and being extremely polite but firm about it, he eventually backed down.
Give Them Something For Free
Sometimes you’ll screw up. Maybe you’ll send a customer the wrong item or you’ll severely botch up their address when you send out their order. Whatever it is, you’ll definitely be getting an angry call from the customer. To avoid an uncomfortable confrontation, always strike first and offer your customer a preemptive freebie. 9 times out of 10, the customer will be so happy that you are giving them something for free that they’ll completely forget what they were mad about.
With our store, we will almost always offer up something in return when we’ve blatantly made a mistake. In most cases, we try and go a little bit above and beyond to make them happy as well. For example, if we ship a defective item, we will often times will ship a brand new item and discount it as well. Doing these little things will create a positive feel about your company and hopefully will convert an irate customer into a repeat customer.
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