- Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place.
We've just completed another holiday rush, complete with a few frantic customers who were obviously feeling the pressure of finding the right gifts as the clock ticked down to zero.
No matter how inviting a specialty retailer is or how well-trained its staff, there's going to come a time when a customer is unhappy about something. (Of course, that doesn't just happen during the holidays, but the odds certainly seem to increase then, especially because more people are shopping for someone other than themselves.)
This is an excellent time of the year to get together with your staff and go back over the best approaches to care for unhappy customers.
First, and foremost, listen to your customers and let them communicate how they feel. Sometimes an upset customer just wants to feel like their thoughts and feelings are understood. Asking them what is causing them frustration and getting the specifics will not only allow them to feel understood and valued, but also will allow them to blow off some steam. And, it will enable you to correct the situation properly.
Be respectful and empathetic. You can disagree with the customer's complaint, but respect and empathy go a long way toward defusing an unpleasant situation and, ultimately, keeping their respect, empathy -- and business.
Make sure your tone and body language reflect that you care about the customer's complaint and will do what it takes to make things right. Focusing all your attention on your customer will allow you to filter out any distractions and make the customer feel they’re getting the customer service that they deserve.
If a customer is angry, it is best to be quiet while letting the customer explain their frustration. As the customer grows louder, make sure to be alert and lower your voice while talking slowly but firmly. Any sign of aggression or disagreement will only escalate things. Emotions are contagious, so stay cool, calm and collected while showing empathy.
While some customers may take out their frustration on you -- and even throw some jabs that get personal -- it's very important to remember their problem with you is business, not personal.
Finally, we all know actions speak louder than words. Back up your words by taking every necessary step to make things right. If possible, send the customer a handwritten, follow-up note to tell them how much you enjoy serving them and value their business.
Remember to be calm, patient and understanding, and your new year will be off to a great start!