If you’re doing any volume of business, you will get unsatisfied customers, refund requests and the like. You might also get your fair share of bullies and other quirks on the Internet.
The reason I mention the bullies is because you do not have to extend them the same courtesy that you extend your other customers. If someone is bullying you, verbally abusing you, or otherwise being unprofessional in their dealings with you, cut them loose. If they’re a subscriber, unsubscribe them. If they’re a customer, refund their money and move on.
No, you don’t have to respond to their email threats. In fact you shouldn’t, as they are likely looking to get a rise out of you. Bullies aren’t worth the effort. Cut all ties, ban them from your site, and don’t give them a second thought.
The above applies to bullies and abusers. So how do you deal with genuine customer complaints? Answer: as quickly and professionally as possible.
Fortunately most of the customer service issues you deal with will involve polite customers looking for resolution. You handle their inquiries, they’re satisfied, and they’ll probably be a loyal customer. Indeed, this even applies to some who ask for refunds – handle the request promptly and professionally, and they’re likely to buy from you again.
But of course from time to time you will run into people who are very upset. Ideally you get to handle these people individually and privately through email. However, you may have to handle them publicly …especially when a real issue has been posted on a forum.
Note: if you have the abusers or bullies posting on forums with outrageous issues, generally you can ignore them. It’s a judgement call, but don’t get dragged into silly fights with forum trolls.
What we’re referring to below is when there is a real issue – maybe you screwed up or something unforeseen happened that put a damper on your reputation. In that case answering publicly can actually be a good idea, because if one person raises the issue in public, you can be certain others are thinking about it. You can “clear the air” by posting a well thought out response.
Here are two important tips to help you handle these tricky situations:
Tip #1: Stay calm and leave your emotions out of it.
When we work really hard at our businesses, it’s easy to start taking things in a personal way. For example, if someone says our products “sucks,” by extension we feel that they’ve told us WE suck (which isn’t the case, but it certainly feels that way).
If someone feels we’ve done something wrong, pride can get in the way …and we might lash out in anger. Sometimes a customer who’s upset seems to know exactly how to push our “hot buttons” – and we get angry and frustrated too. And sometimes we just have an off day and find it easy to get irritable at the simplest of requests. The end result is that we’re a little too terse, perhaps a little rude, and sometimes downright unprofessional.
In short, sometimes it’s hard to give the logical response instead of the emotional response. But if you want to give exceptional customer service, you need to approach your customers and prospects in a non-emotional way.
If you receive an email that “pushes your buttons,” walk away for a bit. Don’t answer it immediately, as you’ll be answering under an emotional fog. If stepping away for a bit doesn’t help, then ask a trusted friend help you construct a reply.
Usually a calm reply will calm the upset customer.
Tip #2: Focus on solutions, not excuses.
Sometimes we do screw up. And yet pride steps in and we look for a scapegoat.
As an example, let’s go back to some of the examples used earlier in this series. Recall how we discussed why you shouldn’t make promises to your customers until AFTER a project is complete and in your hands.
Now consider if you were waiting for a freelancer to finish the project, but they dropped the ball. But you’ve already promised your customers something big. Who do you blame?
The knee-jerk reaction is to blame the freelancer. And indeed, many business owners would not only blame the freelancer, but they would be sure their customers knew that their broken promise was due to the freelancer dropping the ball.
But of course we know that’s not right. The entire responsibility of our business rests on OUR shoulders. If we can’t deliver because a freelancer dropped the ball on our project, the broken promise is our responsibility. Why? Because we shouldn’t have made the promise until after we were sure we could deliver.
Those who are most successful take full credit for the good things in their life …but also take full responsibility for the bad things. You no doubt know this already, and are making a conscious effort to take responsibility as well as credit. Most successful business people do this…
At least in private.
But what about in public? What about when a customer service issue arises – perhaps publicly – and there’s the knee-jerk response to “save face?” Should we explain to our customers why we dropped the ball, broke our promises, didn’t deliver, or provided an unsatisfactory experience?
To a degree it will depend on the situation, but overall remember this: customers don’t care about you. They care about themselves. That means they’d rather hear solutions from you than excuses.
Bottom line: apologize, then focus on solutions for your customers, making amends if need be …and keep the excuses out of it.
If you find yourself starting to explain why something happened, step back and look at it objectively (or ask an unbiased third party to look at your response). Is the explanation necessary …or does it just look like you’re making excuses? Are you accepting responsibility and apologizing – or trying to shift the blame?
A response that’s full of explanations and blame-shifting obviously was created to serve YOU, and your customers know’s it. They want you to solve the problem, and anything else you say or do that’s not directly related to you apologizing, making amends, and solving the problem will just be seen as a source of further frustration.
Let me give you an exaggerated example to make the point…
Let’s suppose you ordered a pizza for delivery, and you were told to expect it in 30 minutes. An hour later you call and find out that your order hadn’t made it into the system, but they would put it in now, put a rush on it, and have it to you in 20 minutes. And they’ll give you your order for free to boot.
Good solution? You bet it is. Chances are your frustration of being hungry and waiting for an order that never showed up would melt away pretty quickly. And you’d likely do business with them again – and tell your friends about your good experience too..
Now instead imagine if when you called the person told you about the computer failure, and how they’re short on delivery drivers tonight, and how the oven had even gone down for a time. Yadda, yadda, yadda …plenty of excuses, but nothing to soothe the frustrated customer, no apologies, and no solutions.
Would you be happy when you’re pizza finally showed up? Marginally happy at best. But you might be a little upset that no one seemed to care about your problems (e.g., the fact that you were starving and your pizza was late).
See the difference?
Mainly what customers want from you is an acknowledgement of their problems, and a quick solution. They don’t want to feel neglected. They don’t want to feel like no one cares. And they don’t want to feel like their problems are unimportant, and that they’re just one of thousands of others.
Make your customer feel special, make her feel like she’s the only customer you have and that finding solutions to her problems is the most important thing in the world to you, and you’ll likely have a customer for life.
When you provide service like this, it doesn’t even matter if your competitors have lower prices or better offers – you can beat them by providing exceptional services. And that starts with really, truly caring about your customers.