We’ve all had them. They are the ones that make you wish you had just stayed home. They might be standing in your jewellery store, on the phone or even just an email but they can ruin your day. They are not happy; in fact they might be quite angry.
But an unhappy customer can become loyal to you for life if you handle their dissatisfaction properly. In my business I often get called upon to help mediate and manage consumer complaints against jewellers in the Caribbean tourist markets. I’ve been involved in a couple hundred of these disputes between jewellery buyer and retailers. Some cases are settled very smoothly and others have resulted in total meltdowns. Over the next few weeks we will explore how to resolve problems and how to prevent them in the first place.
Let’s start with the dissatisfied customer’s feelings. They may be angry, suspicious, confused, or afraid. It is just how they feel, so you need to acknowledge those feelings. It does not mean that you agree with their problem, but you agree that they have a right to their emotions. The important thing to remember is that right or wrong, your customer’s feelings are valid.
Most of all, a dissatisfied customer wants someone that will actually listen to them. Keep the lines of communication open. Never ignore them. If the dialogue is by email always reply promptly, even if it is just an acknowledgment that you received their message. (Do this personally and not with an auto responder.)
Listen to what they have to say calmly and with an open mind. (They may be right!) At this point they may come at you full blast. Usually they just need to vent their frustration and you get to be the target. Sometimes they are ready for battle. They may be assertive and may even make threats. They may even be upset about something else in their life and are just taking it out on you. Stay calm and let them know that you can understand why they are upset. Tell them that you will do your best to resolve the problem. Don’t promise anything unless you are 100% sure that you can deliver. If you say you will call or write at a certain time…do it! This is how you start to regain their trust.
The first few contacts with an unhappy customer are the most important; this sets the stage for how the customer responds to you in the future. Never argue with them. Don’t even attempt to defend your position yet. Let them feel that you are on their side and that you sincerely want them to be happy. And you should mean it! You do want happy customers, don’t you?
Next week we will work on the communication process itself. But for now, just stay calm and listen to your customer.