When doing business, sooner or later you’ll come face to face with an unhappy customer. 

Maybe you’ve let them down in some way. Mistakes happen: after all, we’re all human. Perhaps it’s a misunderstanding, or they are just being difficult for the sake of it. 

Regardless of whether they are in the right or not, handling their complaint properly is important.

Get it wrong, and you can guarantee that they will never patronise your business again. Get it right, and you’ll be able to convert an unhappy customer into a raving fan. 

Turning a customer’s negative experience into a positive one is vital to your success. They’ll be more likely to return and to recommend you to everyone they know.

Here are our tips for how your small business can deal with difficult customers.

In person or over the phone

  • Listen to them. Let the customer have their say, even if they are mistaken. Don’t talk over or argue with them, but rather try and show empathy.
  • Apologise. If you’re at fault, own up and apologise. Don’t lay blame on others. If it’s not your fault, express sympathy for their situation.
  • Deal with the problem. Suggest solutions, be this a refund, return or replacement. Empower your staff to be able to make these decisions by themselves. No one likes to be kept waiting.
  • Know your limits. If you’re unable to resolve the situation to their satisfaction, let them know why and suggest an alternative. 

Via email

It’s much harder to deal with an angry customer via email than it is in person.

While you do have the benefit of taking your time to compose a response, you don’t get a feel for the customer or how your interaction with them is going down.

It is also important to word your response carefully, as tone can be misconstrued, potentially making a bad situation worse.

One of the best ways of getting around this is to have several well-written template letters on file that cover the most common customer complaints. Edit these as needed to suit the particular situation. 

These letters work best when they: 

  • Acknowledge the customer’s frustration, restating it back to them in their own words
  • Take responsibility by showing you understand what the problem is
  • Assure them that the problem will get fixed, and explain how 

It can be a good idea to get these template letters professionally written. Outsourcing your corporate communications to Hunter & Scribe will make sure they are always on brand and up to the task in hand.