Anyone who has worked with customers knows that you will, in time, have a customer who is not 100% satisfied with the service or product. Try these tips to help make a bad situation good.

Customer Service for Small Business Owners

An excerpt from the Washington Post

1. Listen carefully: Most business owners and managers don’t actually listen to the customer, as some get lost in “all the screaming and hollering” and others simply ignore the complaints altogether. “Listening doesn’t mean completely shutting up,” Tschohl said. “It means responding with ‘aha’ and ‘okay’ and ‘I understand’ now and then, so they know you are really paying attention.”

2. Apologize, don’t blame: Your goal is to solve the customer’s problems, not enter into a debate over which party is to blame for the situation at hand. “Simply acknowledge that your company made an error and that you regret the inconvenience,” he said. “Most people never apologize because they’re afraid they’re going to lose face or because they don’t believe they were the one at fault. But that’s not the point.”

3. Express empathy: Customers will respond well to signs that you understand and care about how it must feel to be in their shoes. “A line like ‘I can understand how angry you must be that the pizza didn’t come on time, I would be pretty angry too’ can go a long way to calm the customer down and give you a chance to fix the problem,” Tschohl said.

4. Ask specific questions: Before you begin trying to solve the problem, be certain you know exactly what the problem is – the last thing you want to do is spark yet another miscommunication. “Ask the customer to go over everything with you one more time, detail by detail,” he said. “Check at the end to make sure you’ve covered all of their problems so you don’t forget to address anything they’ve mentioned.”

5. Propose alternatives: If possible, give the customer several choices when proposing solutions, allowing them to pick which option would best remedy their particular grievances. “Nearly all companies have things of high value and low cost that they can give away to the customer to make up for mistakes,” Tschohl said. “But companies don’t always take that option, and they rarely give their employees the power to offer that sort of compensation.”

6. Solve the problem quickly: Once you have come to an agreement with the customer, follow through on your part of the deal quickly and accurately. “Offer them wings right now to make up for their late pizza, or offer them a round of drinks right this second while they wait for their table,” he said. “Make an empowered decision and make it quickly.”