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 five steps for dealing with the (rare) unhappy customer.
1. Let the customer vent. Experience has taught me that that once the unhappy customer starts talking, let him/her go. Like a good fire, most of the time these customers burn themselves out.
- Don't be defensive.
- Listen actively with ears and eyes.
- Don't interrupt. You'll get your chance to respond.
If he's speaking very loudly or inappropriately, politely ask him to lower his voice. If necessary, you can ask him to follow you to another part of the store – or even out the door – to continue the conversation.
2. Establish the facts without judgment. After the customer comes up for air, you need to get beyond the emotions to the facts. Say something like, "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."
3. Express both your regret that he/she is unhappy and 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.
4. 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, unhappy customers just want to be heard. If your customer's resolution is acceptable, take it. If not, tell him what you can do for him.
Remember, it's important to tell your customer what you can do, not what you can't. Instead of saying, "I can't give you your money back." you could say, "What I can do is give you a store credit that's good for a year."
5. Afterward, thank your customer for allowing you opportunity to resolve the issue. This one little step will amaze your customers. A statement like that, one that most companies never make, is sure to turn even the crabbiest customer into a raving advocate.
Two other thoughts:
Dealing with refunds and exchanges. 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. Think about the longtime value of the customer, and don't forget the aggravation it causes you personally. That's your call, but I'm not going to argue over a few dollars.
Most of all, don't let it ruin your day. Don't take it personally. Live and let live. Don't let someone else's character flaws bring out your own. Move on and enjoy the rest of your cheerful and appreciative holiday customers.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, and Happy, Happy, Happy Day!
Doug Fleener, the former director of retail for Bose Corporation, is a speaker and consultant known for bring fresh approaches and powerful actionable ideas to clients and audiences around the world. Learn more at DougFleener.com.