How To Deal With Upset Customers

1. It is cheaper to solve the problem. It costs six times more to obtain a new customer than it does to retain a current one. Keep the customers you have. (New research: it can cost up to ten times more!)

2. Realize complaints are good. Only 4% of upset customers complain. The other 96% simply leave and never come back. A complaint gives you the opportunity to resolve the situation.

3. Create a customer for life. When you solve a problem by meeting (or exceeding) expectations, you develop customer loyalty. (However, please do not go start problems, just so you can solve them and create loyal customers!)

4. The customer is always . . . the customer. Do not say to yourself "the customer is right." That implies you are wrong. Instead, remind yourself that this person is a valued customer, and you need to do whatever it takes to satisfy him/her.

5. Offer alternatives. Instead of saying, "This is the only thing I can do," try saying, "Here are two options." The customer may not be thrilled with the selections, but at least he/she gets to make the choice.

6. Laugh after the customer leaves. In the end, most of these incidents are funny. Look for the humor after the situation is resolved. Laughter is a great way to reduce stress and relieve tension.

7. Do not solve the problem right away. What?!?! Fight the urge to jump in and solve the problem. The customer's initial objective is to "vent" and express emotion. Listen first, then offer solutions. If you interrupt too soon, the person will not be ready to listen to you or to accept your resolutions.

8. Do not get defensive. When you hear the words "upset customer," it is natural to put up your guard. Instead, keep an open mind. You'll be more receptive to listening.

9. Do not take it personally. Easier said than done! Keep in mind that most people have not been taught how to "complain properly." Customers know they are upset, but they do not know how to tell you nicely. Even if it sounds as though you are being attacked, customers are not mad at you personally. They are upset at the situation.

10. Keep it in perspective. You may have served 50 cheerful people today. Do not let one bad-tempered person ruin the whole day.

Author: Kelly J. Watkins, MBA