Over the next 10 days almost all of your customers will be delightful to work with but, inevitably, you will encounter one or two stressed out, unhappy customers. Here are seven things to keep in mind when they've decided to take it out on you.
1. Let the customer vent. My experience has taught me that that once the unhappy customer starts talking, let him go. Don't be defensive, but listen actively. Make eye contact. You might be thinking that you would love to stick candy canes in your ear so you don't have to listen to the guy, but you know you can't do that. Like a good fire, most of the time these customers burn themselves out.
2. Don't let them disrupt the store. A customer has the right to be unhappy with something, but her unhappiness doesn't give her permission to ruin everyone else's experience. If she's talking very loudly or inappropriately, you need to politely ask her to lower her voice. If necessary you can ask the customer to follow you to another part of the store to continue the conversation.
3. After the customer comes up for air, establish the facts without judgment. "So what you're telling me is that you're unhappy that you bought this last month and it was your understanding it would never go on sale and now it is on sale?" Compare that to "Nobody who works here is going to tell you that something would never go on sale."
4. Express your regret that she is unhappy and express your desire to find a resolution. "I'm sorry you're upset but let's see what we can do." Remember that saying "I'm sorry" doesn't mean you or anyone on your staff was wrong. It just means that you are expressing sympathy and regret for what happened.
5. Ask him what he thinks would be a fair resolution. More often than not the customer's suggestion will be something you'll find more than acceptable. Most of the time, the unhappy customers just want to be heard. If the customer's resolution is acceptable, take it. If not, tell him what you can do for him.
Here's my recommendation when it comes to refunds and exchanges during December. Sometimes it is smart business to just give in and do whatever it takes to make the customer happy. A disruptive customer can cost you a whole lot more in sales than whatever it is they are asking for, let along the aggravation it causes you personally. That's your call, but I'm not going to argue over a few dollars and miss hundreds or thousands as a result.
6. Afterwards, thank your customer for allowing you opportunity to resolve the issue. This one little step will amaze your customers. They so rarely hear that comment that it is sure to turn the crabbiest customer into a raving advocate.
7. Most of all, don't let it ruin your day. Don't take it personally. Live and let live. It's great if you've made the customer happy, but there are people who will choose to stay upset no matter what you do. Don't let someone else's character defects bring out your own. Move on and enjoy the rest of your cheerful holiday customers.