The Customer is Almost Always Right...Sometimes: How to Satisfy Angry Customers Without Breaking the
"The customer is always right" is pretty much a staple in every company's philosophy. However, I actually recommend that we change this philosophy to "What's BEST for the customer is always right". Sound funny, but the reality is that our customers often don't know what it is that they truly need. Essentially, this is what they pay us for, so how then, can they be trusted to determine the solution that our company should provide? The key is not to give the customer exactly what they are demanding. The better thing to do is give them what they NEED, and what is best for both parties involved. So...how do you keep a customer happy without giving in to their demands? The answer is simple: great customer service.
I have literally left businesses and never spent a dime with them again because of their poor customer service. In these cases, the problem was not that they refused to give me what I wanted, but it was the delivery they used to tell me no. There are even some cases in which we get what we want, but the experience is altogether so terrible that we STILL decide to never come back. Have you ever heard the expression, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it"? Such is always the case when dealing with customers. No, you may not be providing them a free meal for their inconvenience. No, you may not be crediting their full balance for the next month to keep them as a customer. In these cases, the person will only remember how you made them feel! Even the worst news should be delivered politely, using a calm and professional tone.
So, the next time you have an angry customer who is demanding something you can not give, keep these things in mind:
1. Empathize, but don't apologize! Saying the words "I'm sorry" assumes ownership of the actions that caused the problem. Never apologize unless it was actually something that you did. For instance, if a customer is unhappy with your prices, do not apologize. Instead, assure them that you understand how important it is to budget and save money, but the prices are non-negotiable. Now, say a person feels that you were rude to them over the phone, THIS is a moment when you should apologize and assure them that your intentions were never to be rude. However, don't get bogged down in the phone call, simply move on to providing a solution to make it up to them.
2. Remain positive and professional. It's all in your tone! Even when you are delivering bad news, a positive tone can always soften the blow. Be careful to use the appropriate tone and wording, depending on the situation. For instance, if a customer is irate, smiling at them constantly might only serve to upset them more. Again, remain calm and empathize. In any case, you can't go wrong with a calm, positive, and understanding demeanor.
3. Keep your business in mind too. Always make moves that are business smart. Never sacrifice a loyal customer for your personal ego. For instance, say a customer comes to you monthly and spends $300, but they are unhappy with this month's service and they want a refund. You may be hesitant, as $300, seems like a lot of money. However, if they plan to stay a customer, this is a small amount compared to what they actually pay annually. Do what is necessary to keep this income and retain them as a loyal customer. Likewise, if a customer has only been a customer once, and they express they are dissatisfied and demand that you cancel the service and issue a refund, INVESTIGATE FIRST! Find out who is actually at fault. If your company is at fault, always issue a refund or rectify the situation. If the customer is at fault, AND they have not been a patron longer than a year, it would be a senseless business move to refund the money. Simply use your customer service skills to reason, negotiate, and make the best move for yourself, the customer, and your business.
Be the best on and off paper! Your customer's are people, not just numbers and revenue. Add value to their lives! As a service provider or seller, you are now obligated to stand by the service or product you provide, and ensure customer satisfaction. Keep in mind: The process doesn't end with the purchase.
Image Courtesy of Randy Glasbergen at www.glasbergen.com