BrainTrust Query: Dealing with Unhappy Holiday Customers
Commentary by Doug Fleener, President and Managing Partner, Dynamic Experiences
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary
of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of Dynamic Experiences
During the days surrounding Christmas, almost all of a store’s customers
will be delightful to work with. But, inevitably, one or two will be stressed
out, unhappy customers.
Here are seven things retailers should keep in
mind when they’ve decided to take it out on that staff:
1. Let the customer vent: My experience has taught me that that
once the unhappy customer starts talking, let him go. Don’t be defensive,
but listen actively. Make eye contact. Like a good fire, most of
the time these customers burn themselves out.
2. Don’t let them disrupt the store: A customer has the right to be
unhappy with something, but her unhappiness doesn’t give her permission to
ruin everyone else’s experience. If she’s talking very loudly or inappropriately,
retailers need to politely ask her to lower her voice. If necessary,
the retail associate can ask the customer to follow them to another part of
the store to continue the conversation.
3. After the customer comes up for air, establish the facts without judgment. "So
what you’re telling me is that you’re unhappy that you bought this last month
and it was your understanding it would never go on sale and now it is on sale?" Compare
that to "Nobody who works here is going to tell you that something would
never go on sale." Regarding refunds and exchanges during December, sometimes
it is smart business to just give in.
4. Express regret and a desire to find a resolution. "I’m sorry you’re
upset but let’s see what we can do." Saying "I’m sorry" doesn’t
mean anyone in the store was wrong. It just expresses sympathy and regret for
5. Ask her what would be a fair resolution. More often than not the
customer’s suggestion will be something you’ll find more than acceptable. Most
of the time, the unhappy customers just wants to be heard. If the customer’s
resolution is acceptable, take it. If not, tell him what you can do for
6. Afterwards, thank the customer for providing the opportunity to resolve
the issue. This one little step amazes customers. They so rarely hear
that comment that it is sure to turn the crabbiest customer into a raving
7. Most of all, don’t let it ruin the day. Don’t take it personally.
Live and let live. It’s great if a store managed to make the customer happy,
but there are people who will choose to stay upset no matter what is done.
Discussion Questions: What obvious and lesser-known tips do you have for
resolving customer complaints in the store? What other recommendations would
you add to the suggestions in the article?