Do I Cater to or Ignore the Angry Customer?

Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Business Management, Marketing, Public Relations [ 0 Comments ]

It is one of the worst nightmares every business owner must confront at some point and time in their lives.

They’re dealing via phone, online or in person with an angry customer, a decision hanging in the balance. Do they do everything possible to appease the customer or do they cut their losses and let them walk?

Each situation is different, so there is no set playbook to go by.

As a business owner, you must weigh the pros and cons of keeping and/or losing this customer. Not only can there be financial ramifications one way or the other, but also marketing issues if a disgruntled customer makes the headlines.

Companies both big and small oftentimes do yearly surveys, asking their customers what they liked about the service, what they didn’t like, what could be improved and so on.

While it is a safe bet that many people don’t take the time to respond to such questionnaires either in person, over the phone or online, business owners should listen closely to those who do. As a business owner, you can learn from such responses and look for any noticeable trends regarding service, attention to detail, product reliability and more.

Surveys aside, what should you do as a business owner when you have that customer who just wants to give you a piece of their mind?

The majority of business owners oftentimes are kept out of the mix, with an employee lower on the totem pole taking the brunt of it.

If it is not the generic employee, it is a supervisor catching an ear full. Sooner or later, however, that message will make its way back to you the owner. It is what you do with that message that can have a positive or negative impact on your business.

When dealing with an angry customer, keep this in mind:

  • When the issue does reach your desk, relate to the customer to put them more at ease and see how you can assist them. You’ve been a customer countless times away from work and likely had an issue or two with a business; come at it from that point of view and how you’d want to be treated.
  • Don’t patronize the customer. While approaching them with a discount on a future purchase or some other incentive to keep them is fine, don’t belittle them either.
  • If you cannot fix the situation immediately, give the customer an approximate time/date you can. Saying that you will look into it could mean today, tomorrow or next year. “John, I know your order was lost and I promise to have an answer to you by end of day today.”
  • Lastly, you win as a team and you lose as a team. Nothing is worse than throwing one of your employees under the bus. If a mistake was made on the company’s end, it is a company mistake, not the secretary’s or the VP of sales. Your message to the customer if a mistake is to be acknowledged is that it happened, it was the company’s fault and you will do everything possible to prevent such an experience in the future.

There are certainly times when the customer is at fault, but you’re not exactly going to go announcing that all around the neighborhood, now are you?

If you’re dealing with a valued customer, you should make every effort to assist them and rectify the matter. If they are a customer who just wants to continue making your life miserable, you have to decide at what point to cut the cord and let them go.

Remember, keeping an unhappy customer to poison the waters with your other clients can be devastating in more ways than one, especially if they go public with their frustrations.

What will you do next time a customer wants to give you a piece of their mind?

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