Is the Customer Always Right?

For the small business owner, customers are their lifeline to success. They can also in turn be an explosive issue when things do not go right.

As the owner of a business, how do you handle the upset customer when they turn to the Internet to vent their rage about your business? Do you let it slide and hope it goes away or do you deal with it head-on, potentially opening you and your business up to ridicule and more?

For the majority of businesses, this issue has come to pass at one time or another.

Whether it was an issue over a product, customer service, billing or something else, a customer walked away unhappy with their experience. In turn, they turned to the Internet to let the world know about it.

Despite the old adage that the customer is always right, truth be told, that is simply not the case. How you handle an upset customer, however, is very important.

So what is the best approach to handling a customer that has taken to the web to vent their frustration with you?

Among the steps you should consider taking:

1. Don’t ignore the issue – Even if you think you and/or your employee involved in a customer dispute is in the right, you need to address the issue, getting both points of view. Ignoring the issue sends the message that you are not concerned with the customer’s issue, along with the fact that your online reputation is not overly important to you. Just as you can monitor your online reputation with Reputation.com, make sure that negative information about your company is not finding its way through the web via forums, social media networks, on your competition’s site and more. It just takes one disgruntled customer venting their frustrations online to start a nasty chain of events for your business;

2. Think about repercussions for your online reputation – Even when you are in the right and the customer is in the wrong, the potential damage that can be done to your online reputation could be enormous. With many consumers browsing and shopping online these days, one negative customer review could be the difference between snaring a potential customer and losing them altogether. As a result, you need to think about the repercussions that negative online feedback from customers can do to your company’s image;

3. Nip the problem in the bud before it goes viral – Although it is highly unlikely you can satisfy every single customer that walks into your business or shops with you online, that should always be your stated goal. So solving a matter before it becomes an online fiasco should also be a stated goal. Whether you are a one-person show or oversee a number of employees, make sure that customer service satisfaction is always a top priority. Review your customer service approach on a regular basis to see what works, what has not worked, and where improvements can be made;

4. Be sincere on the matter – Nothing smacks more of ignorance and the possibility of losing a customer than being insincere regarding their complaint. It is important to remember that in many cases, they are still YOUR customer when they are venting about you online. Don’t come across as insincere and potentially lose them to the competition by appearing not to be concerned. Sincerity goes a long way in the world of customer service, make sure you practice it;

5. Determine the best solution for both parties – The bottom line is you do not want to lose a single customer, although it seems like sometimes it is unavoidable. In order to keep as many customer as possible, determine what the best solution is when a dispute arises. What can you offer them to keep them around? Will an apology suffice? Will it take a discounted offer next time they shop with you to maintain their business? Always ask yourself what the ramifications are to potentially losing them as a customer. If the answer is many, do everything possible to keeping them;

Given the importance the Internet plays in the lives of so many customers in this day and age, ignoring it as a business owner, especially when that customer is not happy with you, is like sitting on a ticking time bomb.

Photo credit: marketest.co.uk