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7 ways to deal with difficult customers
  • 22 December 2015
  • Eric Michaels

7 ways to deal with difficult customers

Can difficult customers hurt your business? From sapping the time and energy of employees, to bad reviews posted on social media, the potential harm to your company’s brand and image is not only real, but greater than ever before. Though you cannot plan for every problem that arises, small businesses should have a program in place to deal with dissatisfied clients. Here are seven ways to help put out fires and keep customers coming back:

1. Let the customer vent.
When a customer calls you with a complaint, allow them to state their grievance in full, as the fact that they are able to express their frustration may be enough to save the relationship. Your employees may find the process grueling and unpleasant, but you can train them to remain detached when fielding complaints. Also, be sure to give customers the opportunity to offer feedback through multiple outlets, such as over the phone, online, or via e-mail.

2. Agree with the valid points.
In many cases, a customer taking issue with your company will have legitimate concerns. Whether the problem began with a salesperson failing to return calls, a faulty product, or some other setback, let the client know you see their point. People often need this acknowledgment so they can move on and let you begin addressing the problem.

3. Calm the situation.
Whenever a client gives you an earful, try to diffuse the situation as soon as possible. Creating an open dialogue free of emotional exchanges is the only way you’ll be able to understand the root of the problem and subsequently fix it.

4. Establish a personal bond.
The stronger the relationship with your customers, the easier it is to retain them. In the case of a complaint call or e-mail, it’s important to find common ground early in the conversation, so the customer feels like they are speaking to a person and not an impersonal company.

5. Explain why and how it happened.
Complaints about your business can make a company look unprofessional and unprepared. To maintain your reputation, you’ll need to do some explaining. Research the issue thoroughly and describe the circumstances that led to the present situation as soon as you’re able – even if you have to go to great lengths to get to the bottom of the things. When challenged by a dissatisfied customer, holding yourself and your team accountable is often the best way to respond.

6. Negotiate a solution.
Though the customer’s demands may be unreasonable, there is always room to reach a compromise. In terms of cost/benefit, a monetary investment in appeasement and damage control can end up saving you from bad word of mouth. A good strategy is to let the customer suggest a solution, as it’s often less costly than the one you would have offered.

7. Follow up.
Online surveys are a great tool for garnering feedback and discovering the issues and problems customers have with your business. But whether you offer surveys or not, after you put the time and energy into a addressing a problem, make sure you deliver on your promise to correct it. Follow up with a phone call, e-mail or (if appropriate) a personal visit. Go the extra mile by not only fixing the issue, but also showing the client that you want to be sure they’re satisfied with the outcome. This way, you have the chance to turn what was a disgruntled customer into (potentially) a client for life.

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