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How To Deal With Difficult Customers As A Small Business Online - The Small Business Handbook

How To Deal With Difficult Customers As A Small Business Online

We've all had unhappy customers, and we've all had difficult customers. If you haven't yet, prepare yourself because it'll happen soon. Not that I'm pessimistic, but simply because we cannot please everybody and unfortunately there are some people who won't ever be pleased, despite your best efforts. I've had my fair share of unhappy and rude customers, some of which were due to my own wrongdoings and some of which weren't. Regardless, I've learnt how to effectively deal with them.


1. Be Empathetic

Trust me, I know of all people, how tempting it is to defend yourself when customers are rude. Your business is your baby, and it's natural to want to defend it, especially when you feel as though you've done nothing wrong. But, if I've learnt anything over the past 3 years, its that people don't care if you're in the wrong or not. They bought from you, so they will blame you, even if it was a manufacturer or delivery companies fault. Defending yourself only spurs them on to argue more.

So, even if you're not to blame, straight up apologise. You need to show them that you're on their side, and you truly feel for them. 99% of rude and difficult customers will change their tune as soon as they're aware of your empathy. Most of the time, they don't even need a direct solution to the problem, they just need to know that they're not fighting for a solution; showing empathy does this.


2. Give Them Clarity

Communication is a powerful thing and can completely alter customer's perceptions of you and your brand. Whilst running my first business, I had 70 orders stacked up in my dining room ready to be collected by DHL. They weren't collected for 7 days straight and consequently arrived late with the customers. I was on the phone to DHL several times a day, fighting to find out what was going on after spending £100s on postage. DHL gave me zero clarity, and I ended up spending £100s more on a different postage company, and I never used DHL again. On the flip side, I sent out emails to each customer every step of the way, giving them updates on what DHL were telling me. I sold gifts, so having them arrive late was a big issue, as it'd mean they didn't arrive for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. So, I was in a big panic, pulling my hair out, thinking about the 70 1* reviews I was going to receive after all of this. Surprisingly, I only received 1, and it was from someone who never responded to any of my emails. A few even left 5* reviews and became returning customers.

Lying to your customers about the problem at hand is never a good idea; you'll find yourself in a position where your story doesn't add up and they'll catch you out, giving a bad impression. But, if you're crystal clear about the situation and give the upmost clarity, the majority of unhappy customers won't be unhappy for too long. Keep them updated every step of the way, even if it requires hours of your time. Ensure they know you're doing everything you can to resolve it ASAP.


3. Give Them An Incentive

Returning customers are super important, with them being significantly cheaper to acquire than new customers, and they spend much more on your business over time. So, you should be thinking long-term and therefore giving them a good incentive to return. Alongside reassuring that this issue wouldn't occur again, offer them a freebie or a big discount.

Sure, you'll take a cut in your profits for it, but think about it logically. Let's say you lose £10 by giving them an incentive. That incentive makes them a happy customer, and they become loyal, returning 5 times throughout the year, spending £30 on each order, totalling at £150. Not only that, but they recommend you to their friends and family; that's another £150 per person. Even better, they leave you a 5* review, or even if they just don't leave you a 1* review. That 1* review could repel potential customers away, costing you more than you think. It's always possible to turn an unhappy customer into a happy and loyal customer.


4. Kill Them With Kindness

This is something I struggled with, particularly in the beginning when I was faced with my first ever rude customers. This tip applies more toward the nasty customers as oppose to the unhappy customers.

As tempting as it is - trust me, I know - arguing back with rude customers only throws more fuel on the fire. It only ever makes them more frustrated, and you're giving them more to judge you on. No doubt you'll receive the classic "you're unprofessional" response if you argue back. I've found it's better to be the bigger person in the situation and kill them with kindness. Be so kind that they stop knowing how to argue with you.


5. Ask Them What They Want

If all else fails, this is your final option. 99% of the time, the 4 rules above will work like magic, but there's always a minority of customers who are stubborn. If you find yourself in this situation, ask them what they want. What do they want you to do about the situation? How do they want you to go about resolving it?


You'll never be able to please everybody, so don't run yourself into the ground trying to. Just be prepared for those who aren't overly pleased.


Keep moving forward,

The Small Business Handbook Xx




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