There are some forms of startup businesses where you have next to no customer service obligations. Those are the kinds in which perhaps you just sell one product, and it is such a simple, straightforward product that when the customer whips out their debit card, they know exactly what they are getting, and can simply return it for a refund if they don’t like it. You can streamline and automate these types of product sales, and also outsource customer service.
For a fee there are many companies that’ll answer the calls for you, and hear complaints or suggestions. This would be ideal, but the reason we’re writing today’s article is that in the early stages or with certain other services, the irate customer may find his way… TO YOU!
Sometimes it is after they ‘ve talked to everyone else. Sometimes if you are a restaurant owner, it is face to face, after a bad dining experience. And if you are someone like an artist or blog writer, you may get someone who all of a sudden has time on their hands to give you bad reviews and spread mean stories of the worst kind. If you encounter a dissatisfied customer on the phone, there are a couple of things you can do. Assuming that you are at the top of the chain, the best approach is to apologize once or twice and then offer a solution. If you are not in a position where you are forced to bend over backwards, believe it or not, we are going to go against corporate mantra here. Offer to provide a re-shipment or refund.
When you are working for someone else, they may want you to bend over backwards and listen to long stories of why someone doesn’t like your product. In this situation, as a new business owner you must be willing to compromise. If the customer does not respond to your solution and keeps going on and on about why they did not like the product, steer them in another direction by saying, “Yes, I understand how should we fix this?”
By being your own boss, you should want to give stellar customer service, but the customer on the line really should not be allowed to belittle you. Remember, you went into business for yourself to choose who you wanted to do business with. If at that point the customer accuses you of being unsympathetic, remind them you apologized and ask once again how to fix it. I know it sounds a little curt, but it works.
When face to face, like a restaurant, surf shop, or ice cream store, what really stinks is that the customer can really use the element of surprise to their advantage. When you are working along and in your groove, it is really bad to just have someone sneak up on you with a bellowing, unhappy voice. There is one thing to do here that half of business owners never achieve, and it is because it is very difficult. That is to immediately smile. It is really waging warfare against the customer; it is very hard to keep raising your voice when someone is swearing at you. Some people will, but it gets you a little advantage and points right out of the gate. At that point, you are using the same strategy as on the phone, assuming you are all the way up the chain of command.
Then of course folks can write bad reviews your business or service. This can sometimes take a lot of time to fix. A lot of forums give you as the proprietor the chance to come and defend yourself. Always be graceful, and to the point. The biggest mistake business owners make is long winded, explanations of how the customer was the worst they encountered, etc. what you can do is be very simple and say, “Sorry you had a bad experience, in this line of business we do get a mix of satisfaction levels and always strive to receive the highest”. You will feel like it is not much of recourse, but at that point, you have to let the internet wars take their toll, and some will come to your business, some won’t. Some religiously read these reviews, and some don’t. Amazon has large sections and there are competitors who may even hire people to write bad reviews about your company.
At this point, the only thing to do is focus on the quality of service or craftsmanship and cross your fingers. Even though it is sometimes a monopoly, keep in mind your local cable company probably gets a lot of complaints and customers find their way to the sign-up form! Win some and lose some; these are at least some tips to help you keep your cool… while running your brand new baby startup.