After an hour on hold and no help in sight from a big internet service provider, I was ready to cancel my service. A visit to their Facebook page revealed over 300 angry comments from other people who couldn’t get any assistance either.
Now that’s bad customer service. But sometimes big companies have a virtual monopoly in an area, so what can you do? You might even be stuck with a choice between providers who all have poor reputations in this department. Many times, bad service is just expected from big business.
On the flip side, this is an area that gives small businesses a place to shine. In fact, the smaller your business, the better your customer service must be. You want to grow, right? Then knock your client’s socks off with a fast, personal response and a helpful attitude. Good customer service is expected; out-of-the-box amazing service will be rewarded with repeat business and referrals.
So, what’s the best way to handle customer problems and complaints when they occur, especially if they are being difficult or a bit unreasonable?
First, simply listen. Most people just want to be heard and acknowledged. Give them time to explain, and let them know you hear what they say. Your full attention to their problem can take pent-up emotion out of the equation. “I understand how you feel” may be the most effective thing you say during the conversation.
Then, explain calmly how you will be able to help them with the issue. You’ll do everything you can to resolve the problem and find a suitable solution to their concern. This tends to defuse even the most frustrated customer. On the other side, you don’t have to be subject to abusive or inappropriate comments. If that is the case, explain that you can address the issue when they calm down. You might even suggest that a callback later would work. Respect your customer, but respect yourself as well. You have the right to be treated in a civil manner.
And even though it can be hard, don’t take comments personally. It’s not about you. Your customer could be having a bad day, or have other problems as well. If they are justified in their complaint, apologize and take care of it to the best of your ability.
And keep in mind to forgive them if they overreact or get negative. It happens. The only thing that you can control is yourself, and your reactions. Every kindness that you offer in the face of a complaint is a step towards a calm resolution.
Customer service problems can be headed off, but they aren’t unavoidable. When you take the high road, and listen, understand and respond so as to resolve the problem in a satisfactory way, you have done well. Your response may turn an unhappy customer into one who would recommend you instead!
Carolyn Graham Edlund founded a production ceramic studio in the early 1980’s and sold her work at retail and wholesale through stores and galleries for more than 20 years. Subsequently, she represented art publishing companies to the trade as an outside rep. In 2009, she became an art blogger and founder of Artsy Shark, named on of the “Top Ten Art Blogs” by Art Business News. She is also the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute, and speaks at art conferences and workshop events around the country. She invites you to connect on Facebook and Twitter.