One of the most difficult aspects of running a business is dealing with a customer who complains. It certainly isn’t my favorite part of the day. Since the products we make are such a personal part of us, it’s difficult not to get offended. Read and see how some of the best in our business deal with it.
Charlene Simon –Bathouse Soapery
It hurts when a customer complains, because as I said previously, when you turn your craft into a business it is so personal.
Here’s what I do with customer complaints: I remove myself as the business owner and bring myself to a mental level in dealing with the customer as if we were friends trying to solve a problem. It may sound crazy but I lose defensiveness and say: If we were two friends talking in an elevator about Bathhouse Soapery and how they had wronged my friend (even if it’s just in her eyes) how would these friends expect Bathhouse to respond. I then respond in that mental state, instead of the mental state of being hurt that this customer is complaining about the business I put 80 hours a week into. I swear, this is so effective my best customers were customers that have had the biggest problems with my growing business.
Michelle Rhodes –Mossy Creek Soap
The main thing is first to understand what exactly they are not happy about—ask them. Qualify the problem, Identify with the person, acknowledge the problem and try to fix it. A lot can be done with simple listening. Try to keep your ego in check. They are probably griping about something that can be fixed. And if it cannot I will stand behind my product and offer another item or refund it entirely. Customer Service is a priority with me. I guess I am old school!
Joan Morais –Joan Morais Naturals
Listen to them. Many times it is the customer that complains that has valuable information to change your business or product in a positive way. I also try not to take it personal and I accept there will always be someone complaining. Years ago, I gave away a free soapmaking eBook and a one-of-a-kind soap recipe in my newsletter. I received a complaint from a customer saying she made the soap free recipe from the newsletter and it turned out great but when she cut her soap a corner of it fell off. I told my assistant to recommend a consult to trouble shoot what she was doing as it could be the knife she was using or the soap mold or many other things. I had just given her a free $30 soapmaking eBook! In her reply email, she blasted me saying I was selfish and charged ridiculous prices and why should she pay for a consult and I shouldn’t give a recipe out for free if I can’t answer questions on it. I was really upset because I gave so much away for free and I was so generous sharing everything I knew and it wasn’t enough. I worked through all the emotions and realized I gave away too much. I decided not to give so much for free anymore. I learned, what I offer is enough and the rate I charge is needed to stay in business, to not take it personal, people say mean things and it has nothing to do with me.
Alana Riveria –Etta and Billie
I think communication is key. I always try to reach out to a customer with complaints within 24hrs to find out if there is something I can do to fix the situation. Often it’s as simple as sending free product or a discount coupon. Figure out if there is something you can change to keep this type of complaint from happening again (editing the wording of a policy or email, speeding up response time, triple check orders). BUT don’t bend over backwards if you have someone who complains all the time that is a sign to let that customer go (gently of course).
Roberta Perry –Scrubz
Find out exactly what it was that went wrong and try to fix it. It is and always will be about servicing your customer’s needs. Yes, on occasion the customer will be wrong or just acting negative. Luckily, those are few and far between, and the majority will be thrilled you not only addressed their problem, but made them feel relevant and special in the bargain.
Donna Maria Coles Johnson –Indie Business Network
Generally, I try to get to the heart of the issue. Often, people complain about something, but what they are really upset about is something entirely different. The first thing I try to do is take it from email to a phone conversation. Sometimes, that alone does the trick because people tend to calm down when they realize that a personal conversation may occur. (It’s easy to say things on email that you’d never say in person.) This allows us to talk person to person, and I can ask questions that get at the core. It’s faster than email too. Once I find out what the problem is, if I can solve it I do. If I cannot, I ask the person what they want me to do, and if I can do it, I do. If I cannot, I politely let them know that I cannot do what they need. Sometimes, there are other things that can smooth the situation, sometimes not. This more personal approach works most of the time and makes me feel better than I do if I have to handle complaining via email. Yuck!
Sounds like great advice to me. What do you think?
Yours in Gratitude,
I am SO glad you posted this! I love the various perspectives presented above and the specific ideas they suggested for smoothing out a rough situation. Thankful that these leaders took time to share their wisdom with us!
Angela Carillo says
So glad you found this helpful Carrie! I’m also grateful they took the time to share their knowledge with me. These women are true leaders in my book.
Kristen M. Fusaro-Pizzo says
This came at a perfect time for me as I had a customer who complained, and I tried to rectify it by sending her two free products, and then she was still complaining (even though the two free products were valued higher than her original item, AND I had given her a special discount on the original item). It’s hard not to take things personally, but this blog post certainly made me feel like I’m not alone. Thank you!
Angela Carillo says
I’m glad it helped Kristen. It is hard not to take things personally. Thanks for sharing.
Lisa Thorstenson says
Thats always a challenge and not letting my ego speak or get in my way is the hardest part. The most important thing I think, it to listen, and not argue. I have only had 2 customers in 5+ years that were chronic complainers with an agenda, they wanted free product. I let them go. The other handful of complaints truly were errors on my part, or misunderstandings.
Angela Carillo says
Great advice Lisa. Thanks for sharing!