As you may know, we have dedicated the month of February to building and maintaining good and lasting relationships with your clients. This is an essential part of running a successful business and most of the time is not an easy task. We've already covered the process of establishing a strong consumer-brand relationship and given you some ideas of how to maintain it. However, very often businesses face various challenges in this area, especially when something went wrong and resulted in a disappointed customer. Addressing such situations appropriately is crucial for your business reputation and growth. To help you build a sound strategy for moments like this, today we are focusing on how to deal with unhappy customers.
Step 1: Clear Your Mind
The first thing you need to do when you receive a customer's complaint is to clear your mind. In cases where the client is being rude or very upset by the problem they are experiencing, it's important for you to start interacting with them in a calm manner and not let your emotions get in the way of professional communication. Try to put yourself in your consumer's shoes and show understanding towards their frustration or disappointment.
Step 2: Listen Carefully
If you are to keep your relationship with this unhappy customer you will have to listen to their complaint, the consequences of the problem and how that made them feel. All three are important and if you miss even one, it's almost certain you will lose that customer for good. Make the the complaint resolution process as personal as possible. You could do that by eliminating any generic forms and instead, interact with the person one on one. A good way of showing them you've heard and understood everything is to repeat what they said, including why they felt they way they did. I have an example.
A couple of weeks ago I ordered a dress for a theme party and the retailer delivered much later than agreed (after the party), which meant I had to make other arrangements that weren't ideal, considering the party was on a Sunday. I contacted the seller and explained the situation, after which they asked if I want a replacement or a refund. For me this was a sign they didn't really hear what I said, because I clearly stated the item was for a theme party and I only needed it for that day. I would have loved to hear something like:
"I understand you felt really upset and stressed as a result of our late delivery of your item. We wish we could have spared you these emotions and the trouble you went through, but all we could do at the moment is offer you a refund. Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience we've caused."
Another very good reason to listen to unhappy customers is to collect valuable feedback. This way you can identify problem areas of your operations and other aspects of your business. It will help you better your services, products and interaction with your clients.
Step 3: Offer a Solution
Only offer a solution after you have heard all that your customer had to say and you've understood the problem and the consequences from it. You need to keep your and the client's best interest in mind when you are suggesting a fix for the issue. However, it is really hard to find the balance here, that's why in most cases, businesses end up making a sacrifice, which can be:
Step 4: Ask the Unhappy Customer What They Want
Sometimes what you offer to the consumer as a solution may be not good enough or useful enough to them. It is wise to ask them what would they want you to do to help make them feel better and resolve the issue in a more helpful way. It doesn't mean that you will always be able to give them what they've requested, but don't shoot them with "That's not happening" straight away. Instead, say something along the lines "Usually, we wouldn't be able to provide this for our customers, but let me see if I can do something about it in your unique situation." You've already made them feel like their case is important to you and even if you come back with a negative answer, they will take it much more lightly.
Step 5: Take Some Time to Reflect and De-stress
Dealing with an unhappy customer is a stressful experience. Once you are finished, take a few minutes to yourself and ideally, get some fresh air. If you work independently (from home or in an private office room), play some music, have a drink (not necessarily alcoholic) or do a bit of light exercise. This helps reduce stress levels and generally calms you down. Reflect on the experience and if in a decision making position, craft a strategy how to do things better in your business to avoid similar scenarios in the future.