Dealing with difficult customers
"Remember that your customer just wants to feel heard."
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Hi, I'm Tegan Jones for the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. Today, we're discussing tips and techniques you can use to deal with difficult customers. Joining me is Melinda Emerson, the SmallBizLady and author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. Thanks for joining me, Melinda.
I'm so happy to be here with you today.
Melinda, I know that dealing with difficult customers can be stressful for small business owners, especially given how important their relationships with their customers can be. What are some ways that business owners can deal with customer dissatisfaction?
Well, the first thing you want to do when you're dealing with a difficult customer is listen to them. Most of the time, people just want to get to the top of their hill. They really just want to be heard.
So, once you hear them out, the second thing you want to do is ask them what it is they need to feel whole. You want to ask them how they want the situation resolved. If it's just a really unreasonable request, say, "You know, I really don't think that's fair, but I understand," and offer them something. And that way, you can always say that you did everything you could to try to resolve the situation for your customer.
You also want to make sure that your employees are armed with information and training on how to handle difficult customers. So, you want to make sure — usually, if a customer is coming in the door and they're yelling at somebody, usually, the person they're yelling at is not the person they think can handle their problem., So, you want to make sure that your employees know the chain of command, the next person to reach out to, to come speak to this person to help them resolve it.
What about your staff? Is there anything that you should coach them on doing to make sure they're dealing with unsatisfied customers?
Well, you want to make sure that you give your staff really good customer service training, and that you're really clear with them about how to handle uncomfortable situations. You want to make sure that whenever you have a situation where a client sends a negative email, or maybe they come in and they're upset — conversely, if a customer comes into your store, and they're upset and maybe they're yelling or something, you want to have an opportunity for them to calm down and speak to someone else, because most likely, the person that they first showed their rage to is not the person that they're going to respond to, to solve their situation.
What about businesses with an online customer base? How should they handle customer concerns and complaints in this channel?
The way that they can really satisfy their customers if there's a problem is getting back to them quickly. Everyone likes to feel like they got a rapid response if there was an issue, and that's what you want to do. You want to make sure that someone is monitoring your general email that's exposed to the public.
And lastly, you want to make sure that — for example, if you're an online business and someone has given you a negative Yelp review or something like that, you want to make sure that you follow up with them to see if there's something that you could do to get them to change that review, because those kind of things live online for a long time. But you never know — you can build a customer for life doing a great customer service response to something that happened negatively with a small business.
I'm really glad you brought up Yelp, because I know that a lot of customers are interacting with businesses through social media — Facebook, Twitter, things like that. Do you have any tips for helping business owners deal with complaints that come through those channels?
Well, it's the same thing. You want to make sure that you are monitoring your social media, that you have a Google Alert on the name of your company, so that you know if someone says something negative about your company. And you want to make sure that you respond to it as quickly as possible, in as favorable a situation as you can.
Melinda, before we close, do you have any tips on what business owners should do when they simply can't make a customer happy?
Sometimes, you have to cut your loss. If you really can't make a customer happy, and you know you've done everything you possibly could — short of losing your shirt — to make the customer happy, sometimes you just have to move on and thank them for their business, even though they're unhappy.
And sometimes, cooler heads do prevail. Sometimes, customers realize that they acted unreasonable, and they will come back and be supportive. So, you just have to be honest and be empathetic and do the best you can. You can't win them all, but you need to try to win as many as you can.
Right, that's exactly right. It's all about winning as many as you can. Thanks so much, Melinda. That's a great piece of advice.
You're welcome, Tegan. I'm always happy to talk about how to run a successful small business.
And thank you for joining us for this segment of the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. To learn more about how Wells Fargo Business Banking can help you, visit wellsfargo.com/biz. In the meantime, we wish you continued success.