Handling unhappy customers is a necessary, however unpleasant, part of running a business. The more you know about customers, and what they care about, the better you'll be at handling their complaints. Here are several common complaints, and solutions, that you might face in your business.
Customer Complaint #1: “You didn’t do what you said you would do.”
This complaint is about a lack of dependability. Customers want to be able to trust what you say; if you claim that your product will grow hair, your service will solve all their problems, or delivery will happen at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, then you need to make sure it happens.
Ambiguity, exaggeration, hidden terms, or failure to follow up on guarantees leave your customers feeling like they’ve been swindled. Of course, they’ll avoid doing business with you again; nobody likes to feel cheated.
Solve this problem by only making claims you can back up. If you’re not sure when delivery will happen, be clear about your uncertainty. Say what you know is true about your product or service, not what you hope is true. And if you’ve dropped the ball, apologize and do your best to make it right. Being honest, humble, and helpful can turn an angry customer into a loyal one again.
Customer Complaint #2: “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Although running a small business comes with many responsibilities, in the customer’s mind you have only one job: to know your product or service better than anybody else out there.
If you don’t take the time to know about it, why should they?
Lack of knowledge in management or staff will lead to one of two results: Result 1: the customer will get bored, annoyed, and leave. Result 2: The customer will know more than you about the product/service (having previously researched it), will get frustrated with your ignorance, and leave.
Solve this problem by requiring thorough and ongoing training for everyone in your business. Know what you’re selling and be able to communicate it effectively; ask the same of your employees. Everyone who deals with customers in any capacity should have sales training (to some degree) and should know your business well. That’s because every customer encounter is a sales opportunity, but only the knowledgeable, prepared employees will be able to take those opportunities.
Customer Complaint #3: “You kept me waiting.”
If you’re playing the “pass the customer” game, you’re keeping the customer waiting. If a customer has to endure seven levels of automated answering messages before they reach a live person, you’re keeping the customer waiting. If your systems are so disorganized or outdated that they take much too long, you’re keeping the customer waiting.
In all these cases, what is a minor annoyance can quickly become an ultimatum: “We’re never coming back.”
Solve this problem by telling your customers when there is an unavoidable wait. Tell them what to expect and why. Information makes customers feel more in control, which makes them more tolerant and patient. Feeling left-out, on the other hand, adds to the frustration.
Offer options when possible; come back later, we’ll call you, let’s set up an appointment, I’ll get in touch with you tomorrow, etc. Immediacy isn’t always possible. If you can offer an alternative that’s just as convenient as right now, customers can still get what they want, which is to avoid unnecessary waiting.
Customer Complaint #4: “You’re making this too difficult.”
A business that’s not reasonably accessible or doesn’t offer basic is asking too much of the customer. The result is a customer who feels like giving up. “Why should I try?” they think. “I’l go where they actually want my money.”
Of course you want their money, too. But when your customers have to jump through hoops just to get directions, contact a live person, place an order, or figure out your business hours, they don’t feel wanted.
They feel frustrated, annoyed, and unimportant.
It’s your job to make the effort.
Solve this problem by first making sure that basic information about your business is easy to find online: on your website, blog, and social media profiles as well as on review sites. Then look at all the other processes that require customer input. Try them. How difficult is it to get a live person on the phone, or place an order online? Make the effort to make everything easy for your customers, and you’ll have more of them.
Customer Complaint #5: “You’re not professional.”
Customers may enjoy a casual, friendly interaction, but a certain level of professionalism is important in even the smallest businesses. That includes, of course, eliminating the four problems named above as much as possible: do what you say you’ll do, know what you’re talking about, make the customer a priority, and make doing business easy.
A professional attitude
is the final ingredient. You can have great systems, clear information, and wonderful products and ruin it all with one sullen, lethargic staffer, or one inflammatory comment. A reactive attitude is a certain way to destroy the work you’ve put into building a good business. 60% of lost customers
leave due to poor attitudes or perceived indifference from employees.
Don’t undermine your trustworthiness by allowing yourself or your employees to work with a poor attitude, shoddy manners, or poor presentation. Professionalism means not taking things personally, using common courtesy, being the bigger person, and working hard to help your customer solve their problems.
Customers aren’t always right, of course; any small business owner knows that. And you don’t have to keep all your customers. Some won’t be worth the trouble. Let them go. Don’t, however, lose the good ones with unnecessary mistakes. Review the feedback you’ve gotten from customers, and if you see any negative patterns, work to eliminate the cause right away. Happier customers mean a better business.