For a new small business owner who is seeking to grow his or her business, brand reputation is an important consideration to keep in mind, which is why any negative press about the business can be detrimental to its success. All it takes is one unhappy client or associate, the lightning-fast pace of the internet, and a negative blog post to derail even the best laid plans.
If you follow publishing at all, you might have seen this example in the fall of Cooks Source Magazine, whose editor plagiarized a freelance author’s work, and then refused to apologize. What followed was a barrage of negative press, which led to the magazine’s advertisers pulling their support, thus ending the magazine’s life.
So, as a small business owner, part of your job is to figure out how to deal with unhappy customers in a way that will both protect your brand from losing its good reputation and make the customer happy again so that he or she will actually spread word of your brand, thus helping it grow.
Listen To The Complaint
Your first step when dealing with an unhappy customer is to listen to the problem so that you can begin formulating a solution. This means that you have to let the customer speak, however he or she chooses to speak. You have to have some thick skin sometimes to get past this first step, but, believe me, it will be worth it if you can protect your brand and help the customer. Eventually, the customer will calm down and let you know what the problem is.
Give Your Initial Response
Next, you should respond immediately to the customer, even if you do not have an immediate solution. Part of the customer’s frustration no doubt comes from feeling helpless in this situation. If you can show him or her that you do care and that you are listening to the complaint, then you can make the disgruntled customer at least satisfied knowing that his or her complaint has been heard.
However, don’t make any promises that you cannot keep; instead, promise to follow up and get back to the customer as soon as possible, even if this means that you cannot change anything in the end, it’s worth showing that you are easily accessible.
Keep In Touch
As you work to come up with a solution, you should give your customer updates on the situation. For example, if your customer had to return a broken item, but you need to order a new one and get it shipped to the store, you should also inform your customer of the travel time and estimated arrival. Updating your customer as much as realistically possible about the situation will make him or her feel as if you haven’t forgotten about the problem.
Give Your Final Response
Finally, give the customer your answer. No matter how poorly the situation has carried on, it is important that you give your response in a professional and mature way. If at all possible, err on the side of helping the customer out in some way. If you cannot correct the current mistake or problem, then offer him or her another sort of discount or free product. Try to throw in a peace offering if you cannot solve the problem, as this could help soften the blow, thus making the customer remember that you did your very best to solve the problem.
If you can, in fact, solve the problem, then congratulations! You’ve most likely helped make your customer’s experience with a relatively frustrating situation much better. These are the best case scenarios for these kinds of situations, so you should celebrate the save. Hopefully, your customer is now spreading word about your good customer service to all of his or her friends.
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