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Lose the smugness if you want to give great customer service

Lose the smugness if you want to give great customer service

Customer complaints are the pits! If you’re anything like me you’ll agree that they are difficult to deal with and they can leave you feeling drained and disheartened. By their very nature complaints are naturally negative and numbingly and emotionally challenging. Well hark, dear sellers, I have news for you. You need to change your mind-set and see complaints as a fabulous learning opportunity for yourself, your staff and your business!

From now on, whenever you receive a complaint from a customer don’t simply tut and swear, try thinking like this. “This one person has complained. Only one or two people in every hundred actually have the bottle to complain (particularly in polite Britain). That means that this one complaint may be the tip of the iceberg. Bearing this in mind, how many other people are dissatisfied with the service my business provides?”

You need to follow this up with an “Eek!” and decide that if this one complaint is the tip of the iceberg it is time for you to get deadly serious about a solution, because you don’t want all the people who don’t complain to you, complaining to their family, friends and colleagues instead, do you?

Many learning opportunities!

Many learning opportunities!

So, take every complaint as it comes and use what could be potentially a negative, and turn it into a positive for your business. Remember that customer satisfaction and a profitable business are your only goals, and you really can’t have one without the other. Think of this not so much as ‘customer satisfaction’, but instead seek to amaze and delight your customer. Nothing less will do if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Deal with the complaint immediately. You do this by solving it. You immediately offer to refund, exchange or repair. Consider how you can go above and beyond ordinary customer service, and provide a little something extra for your customer. This may be a freebie that you give them to thank them for their time and trouble and patience while you dealt with the complaint (even if it was only 5 minutes!) or you may offer them a discount (come on, at least 20%!) on a purchase in the future.

More than this you have to solve the problem with a smile and an apology and the best grace you can muster. This is in no way an ordeal for you, your only concern is your customer. You cannot simply apologise and not solve the problem because that will not appease the customer. A smile and your good manners are a vitally important part of your business arsenal, so get them out when you’re waging war against customer dissatisfaction.

Try to locate the source of the problem. Is it an issue with the manufacturer or your supplier? Was the problem in the delivery of the items to you? If any of these are the case then you quickly need to have a word with the source so that you don’t have a repeat of the issue in the future. However it may just as likely have been something you or your staff have done, in the way you’ve packaged something yourself, in your storage or handling. If you’re selling on eBay, did you fail to describe it sufficiently or was your description inaccurate?

Stages for giving great customer service

The first step to giving amazing customer service is to believe your customer first and this is not always easy. Of course there are dishonest customers out there; we’ve all had our share. The old adage you should remember is that ’the customer is always right,’ but only the first time. If you’re selling on eBay then you’re lucky. As soon as you have dealt effectively with the complaint, bar the customer from bidding on any more of your items.

Empathise with your customer

Empathise with your customer

If there is anything you don’t quite understand ask for clarification. Don’t ever get defensive. Keep your features and tone of voice neutral at least, or try and sound concerned and empathetic.

Consider how the customer feels. Try and be on their side. They may have paid a lot or a little money to you, but it’s all relative if they can’t afford to waste money.

Apologize without blaming anyone else. Take responsibility for the problem yourself. Don’t blame your boss or the company or someone the customer is never going to be able to speak to.

Ask the customer what they would consider an acceptable outcome.

Listening is a very useful skill.

Listening is a very useful skill.

Listen. It sounds ridiculously simplistic but just by listening to the customer without interrupting, you are giving great service. Try and forget how busy you are and give the customer the gift of your time, ungrudgingly.

Solve the complaint as quickly as possible. If you are the boss make sure you empower your staff to solve problems. How often have you taken something back to a store and the person has to get the permission of the manager who is not available and you wait and wait and wait. It’s very frustrating. Remember that your time is more expensive than that of your staff, so empower them and you will save your own time, money and stress.

Thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention.

It’s a challenge but calm your customer down. In the event that you have rude or abrasive or even abusive customers here are a few more tips.

• Assume they have the right to be angry however unpleasant they are and however undesirable the situation is
• Remember that their anger is not directed at you personally
• Listen to them
• Speak very softly as they then have to quieten down to listen to you
• Repeat their key points in a soft, firm way. Nod with them in agreement.
• Write the issues down – it looks like you’re taking things more seriously
• Take personal responsibility. This goes back to the point made above about employees being empowered. If you deal with the complaint from start to finish the customer will be calmer and more satisfied afterwards.
• From there on deal with it like any other complaint.

It's a challenge but calm your customer down

It’s a challenge but calm your customer down

Finally, if you have the manpower and you want to add that little extra something, follow up a complaint with the customer, either by letter, email or in person the next time you see them. If you do this graciously, you’ll have customers that keep coming back to you, bedazzled by your amazing customer service.

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