Receiving positive feedback from your satisfied customers is always nice, but the real test of your business acumen lies in dealing with the upset ones. Unfortunately, despite efforts, mistakes happen. When they do, how you tackle them determines your success.
A talking customer is an opportunity
Let’s look at the opportunity. When the client is upset, she is willing to talk. And you have an opportunity to listen what she has got. Most likely, she has a genuine issue. If she had, you have every reason to alleviate the problem and see to it that the client is satisfied. Even assume, the client is being a little unreasonable. She wants a little more than what the implied promise is. That is an opportunity to show your customers that you mean what you say in your marketing materials. 🙂
There’s another opportunity. An upset client is a symptom. Studies reveal that a small percentage of upset clients actually complain. It means that the clients are just a tip of an iceberg. Most likely, with every such disappointed client, there is a loose end in the process. If you do some soul searching, you will come up with some problem that you can fix and help you have more satisfied clients. I have learnt that it’s better to be prepared to listen to complaints. You never know what you might be missing out on unless you get critical feedback from them.
An upset customer might interact with an employee in person or on the phone. Remember, when a customer is upset, he or she might seem to lash out on you as a person. They can get unruly and sometimes downright obnoxious. Excepting the odd one out, most customers are looking for someone in your company to listen patiently and solve their problem in a reasonable time. Just give them a smile, hear them out and solve the problem they have. That is it! The first lesson is that you must listen to the customer.
Receive the Angst with Pleasure
There is no need to take the diatribe personally, I realised that the customer doesn’t know me as a person and his or her angst is not meant to be directed at me unless it is my fault. Keep your cool throughout the talk, and be professional and considerate when you respond. A lot of such customers might have a genuine problem and even though I agree that their tone might be far from polite, their complaint needs to be heard objectively. A brief heartfelt apology is a good start. An abusive and angry customer generally calms down to a great extent if you approach the issue with an open mind after an apology. If I got defensive I immediately came across as not trying to look at the problem from his or her perspective. Listen carefully without interrupting. Make sure that you register the complaint fully the first time itself, asking a customer to repeat the problem again will portray inattentiveness.
In case this conversation is happening on the phone, I make sure to note down the real problems which might not be obvious if the customer is irate. After taking down all the details, I offer to call the customer back at a time convenient for him or her. This gives you time to calmly resolve the problem while letting the customer cool down and will avoid the problem from exacerbating. I know that I have spent a considerable amount in acquiring the customer, so I need to make an effort to retain him or her.
I found myself empathizing with such customers and deviating from standard company policy in a few cases to help them out. Be ready to do so, dealing with people means that you cannot always follow a rigid set of rules. Give them the attention they deserve as individuals rather than a complaint. A company policy needs to be flexible since my customer takes priority over it.
Followup and Solve
Choose your words wisely. There are ways of replying in an effective manner without upsetting the customer further. Offer them the best you can; if that still doesn’t appease them, transfer the problem to a superior and brief them effectively about the issue. As a final point, always remember to follow up on the problem with the customer once it gets fixed. Satisfactorily dealing with upset customers will go a long way in ensuring the success of your venture.
So, what do you do when a customer calls in with a complaint?
About the author: Chaitanya Sagar is the Co-Founder and CEO of p2w2, an online marketplace for services like writing, software, graphic design, virtual assistance, business consulting and research. Chaitanya blogs at p2w2 blog
(RSS). He is fascinated by entrepreneurship and the difference technology can make in people’s lives.
We have our very own testimonials – for the first time. Thanks to Emil, Jason and Sanooj. I would like to share the happy occasion with you. Here they are:
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“I highly recommend p2w2’s service and it’s capability to bring highly skilled global professionals to service small businesses in the US.
I contacted p2w2 for a marketing project to redesign our email newsletter. With a short deadline and an even shorter budget, I was very impressed that the project met all the requirements. The email sent to 30,000 customers worldwide
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“I feel fortunate to work with such a dedicated team. Working with p2w2 helped us improve our project management and soft skills. This in turn helped in offering better deliverables to the client. I could access variety of projects on p2w2 and the website enables customer interaction end to end.”
p2w2 now has a new office. Till now, we have been working out of my residential apartment. Below are pictures of the old office we have been working out of.
That is Amit (grey shirt) and I (red shirt) working from there. The discussion in the picture was of course made up. 🙂 Ravikiran (picture below) should have been in these old office pictures but for the injury he sustained.
I would really like to thank Sahiti, my wife, for all the support she gave when we worked out of her home. We invaded her kitchen and privacy but she was patient through out. She went out of her way and cooked for us and cleaned the place and innumerable times supplied refreshments, so we could focus on the work. Thank you!
I would also like to thank Vidya Sagar who has helped us in a number of ways including designing our logo, designing and printing business cards etc. He is a great advertisements guy and knows how to network! He is now the most punctual guy around. He took all these pictures! Thank you!
Thanks are due to a number of others who have supported us. Pratibha K, Vikas Arya, Koteswara Rao, Krishna Rao (my father), Jayabharathi Devi (my mother), RK Kalluri (Playgroundonline), Devan Rajashekar, Rohit Kundaji, Vinay Kumar, Will Swayne, Emil Pindur, Raghavendra Prabhu, Anita Campbell, Jason D’mello and Sandeep Shroff who have all supported us in different forms.
We opened our office on 2nd December, 2008. We did a puja (a prayer) and occupied the premises.
Below is me (Chaitanya) and Sahiti preparing to start the puja.
Amit, Akhada (Amit’s wife), Chaitanya, and Sahiti busy in the puja. The little girl is Samiksha, Amit’s daughter.
Ravi Kiran, p2w2’s Product Lead. Ravi was injured recently. He got his leg fractured and still attended the puja and has been working out of home. Thanks Ravi! It has been great working with you.
This is little Samikha. She was uncontrollable during the puja. 🙂
That’s Madhu, Kiran, Deepika (almost hidden) and Shravan all from Investment Yogi.
View of the office from inside
I had written two guest posts recently. The first is on Small Business Trends. I wrote on how small businesses have to learn to delegate and to outsource.
As a small business grows, and as the scale at which a task is done increases, you have to find ways to get the time to focus on the bigger picture. If you don’t, you
will get caught up in myriad routine activities, and can’t progress on strategic areas of your business. You have to make time to steer your business in the right direction. And you can do that by delegating work to others, by outsourcing, and at times, it’s as simple as asking other party to visit your office instead of you visiting them!
The post has 35 comments as of now. Thanks to every one who commented. I am hoping to make it 70. It will be great if you can comment on it!
And the second is on SMBCEO. I wrote about smart ways to finance your business.
If you are creative, you will be able to fund your business in a number of ways:
• You could negotiate longer credit period from your suppliers (with a good business plan or sheer perseverance). Preferably, if your customers pay you faster than you have to pay your suppliers (even by narrow margin), then you need much lesser capital
• You could try an alternative pricing structure, say a 10-20% discount to customers who pay upfront, as the woman in our first example did
• You could pay your suppliers in installments
• You could ask your employees to work for stock options for part of their salary
• You may lease your company assets rather than buy them
• You could barter a portion of your service, e.g., you are good at writing/business consulting/marketing or even giving business leads! while a friend is good at graphic design. You could swap those services for each other, (not to mention pitching for common clients)
• You could choose services/products that don’t take too long to build
Hope you like both the posts!
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About the author: Chaitanya Sagar is the Co-Founder and CEO of p2w2, an online marketplace for services like writing, software, graphic design, virtual assistance, business consulting and research. Chaitanya blogs at p2w2 blog (RSS). He is fascinated by entrepreneurship and the difference technology can make in people’s lives.