Dealing with Customer Complaints

Dealing with customer complaints with both retail and wholesale customers is a skill that is easily learned.  Personally, I learned good customer service over the years from my experience in working with customers in many different scenarios:  retail store management, door to door sales, website owner and sales rep.  (Actually, I need to ‘flex my customer service muscles’ most as a sales rep from dealing with BOTH customers and vendors!!)

One of the most important skill you can have when dealing with customer Dealing with customer complaintscomplaints is to listen.  Most of the time, an unhappy customer just needs to vent their frustration over a problem they encountered.  When (not if) you get a call from an irate customer, use the following steps:

  1. Listen fully to their full story without interrupting.
  2. Empathize with their situation — in other words, how would you feel if this problem had happened to you?
  3. By this time, the customer has probably calmed down some — making it a good time to express your sorrow for the problem they are facing.
  4. Take responsibility for the problem and ask the customer what you can do to make it right for them.  Sometimes this will entail giving them something in addition to exchanging the product or refunding their money.

I had a situation last winter during the holiday season that demonstrates this method.  On a website I managed, I receive the following message on Christmas day:

I ordered your product on 12/11 as a Christmas gift and it has not arrived ye and it is now Christmas day.  This is terrible service!

A very disappointed first time customer,

As soon as I got the message, I wrote back to her the following email:

I am so sorry that you did not receive your Christmas gift in time for Christmas.  We shipped all orders out assuming they would arrive by Christmas according to the carrier’s information.

I’ll do what I can to trace your gift shipment, but unfortunately, the shipping dept. is closed now until Monday of next week.  I’ll send you what I know as soon as I can trace this shipment.

I truly apologize for the great inconvenience.  Please let me know what we can do to make this right for you.

When the office personnel were back in the warehouse, we did some checking and this is what I wrote back to the gal:

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you.

Here is the tracking number to your package to Utah:

569827646600 (fictitious number)

According to the USPS (postal service) website, the order was shipped December 18, arrived at Spokane, sorted and sent out on the 19th with an expected arrival on December 21.  The website still has the package marked as “In Transit”.

Currently, we are having the local post office trace the order to see where it is right now since it should have arrived at your friends house days ago.

I am so sorry that your lovely gift did not arrive as scheduled.  Would you like us to resend the package?  Or would you like to wait a day or so more to see if the local postal service can find it and deliver it to your friends?

Let me know how we can make this right for you.

After waiting a few days, per her request, we ended up sending a replacement shipment.  Here is the note we received from her a few days later:

My friend received the package today and is already enjoying it.  Thank you for your follow through.  We will be sure to order from you again.

Well, I hope someone , somewhere is enjoying your delicious product.  I hope they enjoy it so much they too will order from you in the future.  My friends are in a retirement home and are taking the jam to breakfast where I am sure they will share with others.  How nice to make & sell something that can bring joy and pleasure to others.  Please know that in no way do we hold you responsible for the delay.  I know that UPS and FedEx both had delivery challenges this year and you have handled the problem admirably. 

End result:  A happy customer — which is worth more than the cost of the lost shipment.

One thing I trained myself NEVER to do is assume the customer is wrong, dishonest or not worth my time.  When I use this simple procedure, I often end up with a loyal customer that will share their story with others.


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