The fact is if you are running a business, you’ll have customers who complain. Here are some ways you can pacify angry customers and turn the situation in your favor. Surely you have heard the old expression, “You can’t please everyone all of the time”. Even though you may have a great product, exemplary customer service and positive feedback, there will always be someone lurking around the corner who you just can’t please; no matter how hard you try. And it only takes one unhappy customer sharing a bad experience with your business to their friends or colleagues, or worse yet, on an internet forum board, to seriously hamper your reputation.

But all is not lost. Try to head off precarious situations before they start. Sometimes, the biggest complainers can turn out to become your most staunch ally. But you need to know how to placate an angry customer or resolve an issue before you can even attempt to win them over.

How do you do that? For starters:

1) Listen. Give the disgruntled customer a chance to tell you what is bothering them. Try not to get defensive or insulted right off the bat. Keep your hackles down until you know what the problem is. It may be easy to fix. Maintain eye contact with your customer, that way they know you are listening. Be patient as they try to define their complaint. Try to separate what is being said from how it is being said. Most complaints tend to come off strong, but only because they figure they won’t get any resolution to their problem. Change their mind. And just as important is really paying attention to what the customer is saying. Don’t let distractions pull your attention from your customer, because he or she will immediately sense that you’re only giving them ‘half an ear’, which will do nothing to help your efforts to resolve the situation.

2) Don’t Give Up. Whatever the complaint, doesn’t just say, ‘Sorry’ and let your customer walk out the door. Try to resolve the issue so it doesn’t come up again, either for that customer or another one. Be respectful, no matter how rude the customer may be and always maintain a professional demeanor. Make sure your employees are always polite and helpful when dealing with customer complaints. Losing your temper or having an employee respond rudely to a customer does more damage than you’d think possible.

3) Do What’s Best for the Customer, Not You. Remember the maxim, ‘The customer is always right’? Many people today consider such thinking old-fashioned, but it’s actually a timeless piece of advice. Many businesses have standard policies regarding complaints. These can range from a free item to a discount, or to a letter of apology. But many times, these resolutions don’t fix the original problem. Don’t tolerate rude employees. Even if you offer a free item or discount to make up for the trouble, assure the customer that you will do your best to make certain the issue does not recur. Better yet, ask them what they think and follow their suggestion if it’s within reason. Show your customer that their business and their satisfaction are important to you.

4) Keep your Cool. It’s easy to grow defensive when criticized. But when such criticism does arise, try to remain calm and remember the following points.

  • Don’t take complaints personally. Customers just want what they paid for. Just like you. They know nothing about you; they don’t know that you just had an argument with your spouse, or that your mother is sick in the hospital. They aren’t yelling at you. They just know they aren’t happy, for whatever reason, with either a service or a product. It’s your job to make sure they walk away, if not happy, at least placated whenever possible. Try to remember that word-of mouth still goes a long way, even in today’s technology-driven society.
  • Don’t dwell on the past. After an incident with an unhappy customer passes, don’t dwell on what could have been. Focus instead on the future and preventing the incident from happening again. Try to repair problems in communication, customer support and head off potential problems before they occur.
  • Do your best to fix the problem. After you have listened to the customer and offered a resolution, your customer may still be unhappy. Accept the fact that some people are just downright difficult and nothing you do will please them. If you’ve done your best to fix the situation, then you need to be able to just let it go.
  • Strive to always improve. We all learn from our mistakes. Or we should. Appreciate your ‘good’ customers, but learn from your ‘bad’ ones. Don’t let a complaint ruin your day, but don’t ignore it, either. Constantly look for ways to improve customer relations and your experiences with ‘bad’ customers should dwindle.

Remember, you will have customers who complain. It goes with the territory. But if you take the time to try and resolve their complaints with courtesy, honesty and integrity, you’ll go a long way in smoothing ruffled feathers. Your business wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for customers, so remember that a smile and an effort to change a situation always win out over a scowl and a bad
attitude. You’ll feel better, and so will your customers.

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