Angry Customers: Customer Service for Small Business Owners

    Angry customer? Here's how to deal.

    Angry customer? Here’s how to deal.

    If you’re a small business owner, you may or may not have an actual “customer service” team. Odds are, you’re wearing many hats in your organization, as might your employees, and customer service is likely just one of those hats. And sometimes it’s easy to get so wrapped up in product development and business plans that you’re completely flummoxed when faced with an angry customer.

    It’s tough enough to find new customers—make sure you’re doing what you can to keep the ones you already have! Here’s how.

    1. Find out what happened. Make sure you understand the whole story first; is that “difficult customer” actually being difficult, or do they have a legitimate problem? Or could they simply be reacting to a negative customer service experience? Make sure to interview all of the relevant parties, including your own employees who may have been aware of or involved with the situation, so you have a solid understanding of what’s going on, where the problem originated, and what caused it.
    2. Ask what you can do to help. This simple question can go a long way toward smoothing down ruffled feathers—sometimes, just the act of listening with a sympathetic ear when the customer is expecting you to go on the defensive can work wonders. And staying calm and collected when you feel attacked will help the customer stay calm as well.
    3. Offer a solution. If a product arrived broken, offer to replace or fix it. If the customer considers services unsatisfactory, a partial refund might be in the cards (or a full refund, if it comes to that). If the customer has an issue with how they were treated, consider offering a discount on future services (and consider meeting with your team to reinforce the importance of good customer service!). And remember: a heartfelt, handwritten letter of apology can help turn a disgruntled customer into a happy one.

    These three simple steps apply regardless of whether the customer is blasting you on social media networks, sending you angry emails, or yelling at you to your face.

    If you can show that you’re sympathetic and that you’re actually working toward an equitable solution, however specific cases are resolved, you’ll create a reputation for your business of providing good customer service—and, in general, when you’re competing against big-box corporations who straight up have you beat on prices, good customer service is an area where your small business has the opportunity to excel.

    What about you? How have you resolved difficult customer service issues in the past—or, if you’re the customer, what actions has a business taken to address your concerns and make you feel valued?

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