There are times when the customer is absolutely wrong, but telling them so won’t lead to an equitable solution. Everyone in retail will eventually run into an extremely abrasive customer and for the sake of their business they’ll have to just deal with it. Yes, we know this easier said than done, so we consulted Shopify, the people who produce complete ecommerce solutions for online merchants, to get these seven customer service tips for dealing with bad online customers.
1) According to Shopify, the first thing you need to do is make sure everyone on your staff practices active listening. Rather than getting upset and letting emotion determine actions, listen to what the customer is saying, let them know they’re being heard by paraphrasing the problem back to them and assuring the caller that the goal is to find a solution to their problem. It is very important to always remain calm. Taking a deep breath can slow the situation down and buy time to get a handle on negative emotions.
2) The next step is to collect as much information as possible about the issue. It isn’t necessary to agree with the customer, but don’t disagree with them either — just listen and let them know you understand what they’re saying.
3) If it turns out your company is responsible for the mistake, the solution is easy. Apologize, do what you need to do to correct the mistake and thank them for their continued patronage. However, if they’re wrong, while you’ll still try to find an amiable solution, you’ll want to make sure you don’t establish a precedent within which anyone who calls with a complaint gets whatever they want. That’s a recipe for bankruptcy in pretty short order.
4) While it’s impossible to foresee every situation, you have to empower your people to take action up to a certain point, after which they must turn the customer over to a manager. The establishment of clear-cut guidelines (with a degree of flexibility built in) allows your customer service team the capability of diffusing most situations. If they find themselves in a circumstance in which the customer’s demand is beyond their authority, make sure they know to whom the call should be escalated.
5) Of course, the absolute best way to deal with bad online customers is to do everything you can to make sure you get as few of them as possible. In most cases, negative customer experiences will arise from a flaw in your organization. Do everything you can to simplify processes to minimize errors. Build in opportunities to double check orders to ensure they’re correct before they ship to customers. Put yourself in the consumer’s position, think about how you’d like to be treated and make sure that attitude is part and parcel of your company’s culture.
6) Paying careful attention to the way your site is merchandised can help here too. Make sure products are photographed very well, descriptions are very clear and video tutorials are included for products with any degree of complexity at all. The more you can do to make sure customers know exactly what they’re getting and doing everything possible to meet those expectations will minimize negative customer interactions.
7) Finally, make sure the people you hire all have amiable personalities. You want independent thinkers who can demonstrate a great deal of patience and have no problem consulting help when it’s required. Most people will relax when they know someone genuinely concerned about their problem is working diligently toward helping them. Train your customer service team to provide superior service.
By and large, bad online customers have been created by circumstance. If you do everything you can on your end to make things go well for them, odds are they’ll never feel the need to be that way. However, sometimes you can do everything absolutely right and things still turn out wrong. That’s when your diplomacy saves the day. Make sure everyone on your team also knows that play.