How To Deal With Customer Disputes Without Losing Customers Or Giving Away The StoreBy: Lisa Lake
When you are a customer, it is convenient to be dogmatic about the old "customer is always right" ideal. However, some customers take advantage of their power position, using their eternal status of "right" to take advantage of business owners and service providers.
Although most business owners say the customer is always right, they each have their own list of clauses to protect themselves-- as well they should. If a customer requires something unreasonable from you, you have the right to refuse them, even if your refusal sparks their antagonism.
It is much easier to deal with this type of customer in a big city environment. Amid the throng of people, you can console yourself with the knowledge that, if you do incite the wrath of a customer, you will probably never see them again.
When you operate a business or provide a service in a small town, dealing with unhappy customers is a much more delicate procedure. Especially when you have to sit two pews away from them in church the next day.
Business owners in rural communities are denied the option of washing their hands of antagonistic customers. Letting a customer leave angry and unsatisfied virtually guarantees gossip. And in a small town, bad news travels faster. It can sweep through the community in less than a week, wiping out your customers as effectively as the galloping consumption.
The key is to douse an unsatisfied customer's rage before it really starts to burn. Most customers won't enter the scene in a huff. When they become really unpleasant is when they don't get the kind of service and understanding they want.
Over the years, my friend Bill, a small town furniture store owner, has had to become an expert in the art of angry customer prevention.
One of the difficult situations Bill has to deal with often is the return of electronics that were sold to smokers. Many people buy things from Bill that, a month later, they decide they can't afford. The problem is that cigarette smoke reeks havoc on electronics after a short period of time. Not only does the smoke cause mechanical problems, but every time the TV is turned on, it exudes the smell of cigarette smoke.
Bill cannot simply eat the cost of these damaged electronics, like Kmart or Walmart have the freedom to do. He has to figure out some way to deal with the customer's unreasonable request without antagonizing him.
I am fascinated by Bill's ability to handle these situations. I asked him to describe in detail how he was able to defuse these potential explosions before impact. This is what he told me:
Unfortunately, there are some customers who don't deserve to be dealt with in the respectful manner described above:
© 2001 Lisa Lake
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