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Dealing with Disgruntled Customers

No matter how hard you try, in business you simply can't please everyone. You could have a highly trained customer service squadron and an award-winning product, but still you'd have some buyers who just weren't happy. The bad news is that unhappy customers are more eager to share their experiences than happy ones which could spell disaster for your business.

There is good news, however. Unhappy customers who receive satisfaction can become your biggest allies. The trick, of course, is discovering how to satisfy their needs so efficiently that they'll forget whatever caused their disappointment in the first place. Here are some ways to make that happen:

1) Be a Good Listener

When someone complains about us, our first instinct is to get defensive and to distribute blame. Most of the time we start doing this even before the other person has finished their argument. When that happens, we may misjudge the situation, offer inappropriate resolutions, or appear insensitive to our customers' feelings. Instead, we must work hard to become patient listeners. We should stay focused on the customer and not get distracted by anything else going on around us.

We should also pay attention to what is being said, not how it is being said. Even a beligerant customer is trying to express a concrete complaint, he just might not be able to do it as clearly or as calmly as someone else. By listening patiently to our customers, we can take the first step toward helping them more effectively.

2) Don't Let an Unhappy Customer Slip Away Without a Fight

Just because someone is unsatisfied with your service or your product, you don't have to throw your hands up in the air and say "That's another one gone." Take steps right away to resolve the situation. Most customers who have a complaint just want you to take the problem seriously, to handle it as quickly as possible, and to have it resolved in a respectful and professional manner. If you can do that for them, you will successfully mend the relationship.

3) Resolve the Problem to Their Satisfaction, Not Yours

When many businesses right wrongs, they do so by only considering what is in their best interest and not what would satisfy the customer. That simply doesn't work most of the time. Let me give you an example.

One young woman took her small children to a well-known fast food restaurant for dinner. Because her youngest child was diabetic, she ordered diet drinks for their child-sized meals. Instead, she received regular drinks, and the extra sugar in the drink caused her child to have to be rushed to the emergency room that night. When she called to complain, the manager offered her a free meal to compensate her for the near-death experience of her two year old daughter.

Why did the manager make such a ludicrous offer? Because that was what the restaurant had decided to do in order to deal with customer complaints in a cost-effective manner. It was good for them and that's what mattered.

The reality is that customers will all have different ideas on how to resolve these issues: some may want an employee to be fired or punished for their bad service, others will want financial restitution, some will want assurance that it will never happen again, and most will want a combination of those things.

To determine how to satisfy your unhappy customers, just ask them how you can make things right and then do whatever they ask for (within reason, of course). By doing this, you will be showing how much their satisfaction and patronage means to you.

4) Keep Your Head

When customers are angry with us, it can be very upsetting, especially if we truly do care about their business. Yet, we may get so upset that we aren't able to cope effectively with their problem and end up losing the relationship which can be even more upsetting. Instead, take these four steps to coping with your feelings:

A) Remember it's not about you ? While it may seem that they are yelling or complaining about you personally, they aren't. They simply want what they paid for. Your customers don't know if you're a good family man or a single mother struggling to get by; all they know is that they paid for something and that's what they expect to receive. So don't take their complaints personally.

B) Stop thinking "If only" or "What if" -- After an incident, you may spend days going back over the situation and wondering what you could have done differently, but this is futile. No matter how much you may want to, you can't go back and change it now. Instead, you should be looking forward and finding ways to prevent it from happening again.

C) Know you've done all you can ? If you feel guilt because you weren't able to satisfy an unhappy customer, you can shut your conscience up easily if you know that you did everything within your power to right the situation. After all, there are just some people who will never be happy with anything that you do and they aren't worth stressing over.

D) Keep improving ? In life, we learn more from our mistakes than we do from getting something right. So each unhappy customer provides you with a learning experience that will not only help you handle future situations better but will also show you how to prevent future mistakes from happening. Obviously, you don't want too many of these learning experiences, but when they do happen, be sure to use them wisely.

While you won't be able to safe every relationship, you may be surprised at how many you can rescue with these suggestions. It may seem like a lot of extra effort, but if you care about your customers and about your business, it's the least you can do for them and for yourself.

Vishal P. Rao is the owner of: http://www.work-at-home-forum.com/ An online community of people who work at home.

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