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Dealing With Unhappy Customers

If you have been in business for any length of time, it is likely that you have at least 1 customer transaction that was less than perfect. A bad review across online channels today can potentially cause a lot of harm.
 
While the natural reaction may be to fight back, that could make a bad situation worse.
 
 
In recent news, a restaurant owner in Maine got national attention when she loudly chastised a toddler and her parents because the toddler was crying during the meal. The incident became national news when the toddler’s mother took to social media to file her complaint. With supporters on both sides of the issue (should you bring a toddler to a restaurant or not), it became a heated debate with people pledging to never eat at this diner again and others vowing to try it out because of the owner’s intolerance to ill-behaved children.
 
 
Luckily, most complaints aren’t as public as the one that happened in Maine. But a less than favorable review or negative comment made on social media has the potential to be the first thing people read about your company. If you get a bad review here are the things NOT to do…
1.    Do not ignore the review.
2.    Do not deny that the issue existed. It may have seemed like nothing to you, but because your customer posted it, it was a big deal to them.
3.    Don’t argue with the customer, or try to prove you are right and they are wrong.
4.    Don’t pay to have "a cleaner” remove the bad review or write phony reviews to counter the bad one.
And here are the things you should do…
1.    Do respond. Consider how you would want someone to respond to you when things do not go as planned. Do it tactfully. Take the high road. Be a professional. Acknowledge the issue and encourage the poster to re-engage to resolve the issue.
2.    Do apologize. Frequently an apology is all that the poster wants. Acknowledge you understand how they feel and do what you can to make it right. Provide direct lines of communication and personalized attention to show you care and to get the conversation off line and not in the public eye.
3.    If you are able to satisfy the customer, ask them if they would mind posting a follow-up review indicating how the issue was resolved and their level of satisfaction.
If you feel you can’t do the suggestions above, it may be time to cut the customer loose. There is a well-known anecdote about a women who was a frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines and had nothing but complaints. She was upset that there were no assigned seats, no first class, no meals served. She didn’t like the uniforms of the flight crew and the casual atmosphere when boarding. After each flight she would write a letter to customer service detailing what they did wrong on that particular flight. Finally, the customer service team felt they could no longer help her and escalated her letter to the CEO.  Within 60 seconds of receiving the letter, the CEO had written back with a short but sweet note of "Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.”
 
 
You can’t make everyone happy 100% of the time. If you find yourself in a situation like Southwest did, it may be time to fire the customer. Letting go of a few bad apples will free your team up to focus on the clients that do appreciate your service and what you do for your clients.
 
 
Unhappy customers are an inevitable reality for every business. And although unpleasant, addressing these issues head on can be game changing for the company. They may reveal blind spots in service or where improvements can be made or they may reveal a niche of customer you just don’t serve as well as another company could. Regardless of the lesson learned, you get a silver lining take away after a stormy experience.


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