How To Deal With Customer Disputes Without Losing Customers Or Giving Away The Store

May 8 21:00 2002 Lisa Lake Print This Article

When you are a ... it is ... to be dogmatic aboutthe old ... is always right" ideal. However, some ... ... of their power ... using their ... of "rig

When you are a customer,Guest Posting 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

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:

1. At the beginning of the interaction, listen. Don't talk.
Interrupting the customer's monologue would be regarded as a lack
of interest and respect.

2. Don't come to any quick conclusions. Wait until you have the
customer's entire story, so they feel you've heard them out in

3. To prove you were listening closely, paraphrase the customer's

4. If the confrontation escalates and the customer becomes
angry, try to concentrate on the customer's message instead of
their anger. If you let the customer drive you to angry
statements and outbursts, you will create a downward spiral that
will never end well.

5. Remember that your objective is to show the customer you want
to help. Becoming angry or argumentative would only prove
that your sole concern is yourself and your interests.

6. If you come to an agreement indicating that the customer is
wrong, try to avoid making the situation embarrassing for her.

7. Above all, always, always, always apologize, even if you know
you did nothing wrong.

Always do your best to avoid turning a minor disagreement into a
major argument. If the customer comes in angry, do what you can
to make sure he leaves placated.

Unfortunately, there are some customers who don't deserve to be
dealt with in the respectful manner described above:

1. Any customer who attempts to influence you toward some illegal
or unethical action. For instance, if a customer wanted a receipt
in excess of what was paid, that customer is not worth your

2. Some customers are more trouble than they are worth. If you
are forced to ignore a dozen customers because you are busy
dealing with one difficult customer, you will have lost more than
you gained.

3. The worst kind of customers are those who revel in being
unpleasant and rude. Some take the power of their position so far
that verbal abuse seems perfectly acceptable to them. These
customers should be asked never to return.

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Lisa Lake
Lisa Lake

Lisa Lake has created a list of top promotional methods on her Lisa also writes ad copy that sells for
DrNunley's Reach her at or 801-328-9006.

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