Stephen Venuti’s Four Steps To Properly Handle Upset Customers

2020 has been … something.

Maybe, if we’re all fortunate, the SpaceX launch will be the best thing to come out of this season.

Because there is simply pain all around right now. I said this in another place, but it’s overwhelming, as someone who has to communicate to a broad base of Newtown Square, PA clients, to even articulate meaningful words about everything that is happening.

So … I’m just doing what I can to sit in the pain of it all with my Newtown Square, PA friends, and not try to brush past it.

I don’t know much else to do, or to say, right now. I’m listening, I’m watching.

I’m pained by injustice. And I’m pained by the riots. But I’m most of all pained by the environment we’re in that makes people feel like the only way to be heard is to riot.

It’s all just … pain.

But as Newtown Square, PA business owners, we’re called by our vocation to lead, and to shine a path for our customers, our employees and all of those whom our business might touch.

That’s what I’m trying to do in my small way with these notes, as well as to come alongside businesses with financial clarity and a boatload of tax savings. That’s my lane, and I embrace it.

Most of all, though, I’m listening … and doing my part to make my clients’ loads lighter, no matter their particular circumstance.

And, now that the quarantines are beginning to lift across the country, not only are we hoping for health and safety as we do … businesses are needing to find ways to bounce back in some fashion.

And this week, I’m returning to my previous “Real World Business Strategy Note” format, to try to bring you one big thing that might help.

There is still much we are learning about PPP forgiveness, and we are here here to help with that: (610) 353-0686 (or shoot me back an email through the email button at the top of the page to get on our calendar).

But this week I thought I’d address some real world issues that WILL happen as things begin to move into “recovery mode”.

Upset customers.

Stephen Venuti’s Four Steps To Properly Handle Upset Customers

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” -Moliere

As businesses reopen, it’s inevitable that the phased-in component of lockdowns being eased might cause ruffled feathers. Businesses have to honor the restrictions imposed by governing authorities, and customers might be upset by either the continued restrictions … or perhaps even by the loosening of those restrictions.

It’s a tricky situation.

Now, studies repeatedly have shown that only a very small minority of customers who experience frustration or a problem will actually complain. Say, 1 in 25 (which is consistent with what many researchers have found).

As a local Newtown Square, PA business owner, this is a problem — because that silent majority will simply keep their mouth shut … and take their business elsewhere.

So when someone complains, they are giving you a wonderful gift. They are giving you an opportunity to make right whatever is wrong.

So, there are four primary things that we can all do with upset customers to turn lemons into lemonade. And these are things that go beyond mere “words” (but they do include words)…

Step One: Say “Thank you”.

By thanking them for bringing the problem to your attention, you are signaling your willingness to listen. You’re also diffusing a lot of the anxious energy people bring when they come with a complaint. They’re probably prepared for a confrontation, so a genuine, “Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention!” takes a lot of the wind out of that sail.

Even if you disagree with your customer, you can still be grateful that they told you about the problem.

Remember that their complaint is a gift, and treat it as that.

Step Two: Ask lots of questions, and LISTEN. 

Their lips may be saying, “The color is wrong,” when they are really saying, “It makes me look fat.” Don’t make judgments and don’t jump to conclusions; just keep the conversation going until you feel confident you’ve uncovered the real reason for the complaint.

I know, I know … some people are hard to read, they tell you lies, or they are just being a pain in the back side.

Do your best to understand their real problem.

Step Three: Be empathetic.

Acknowledge how they feel. Apologize, if it’s appropriate. People can tell if you are trying to understand, or just pretending to understand.

Be on your customer’s side, even if you think they are the cause of the problem.

If you get into an argument with your customer, you lose. You might win the argument, but you’ll lose the customer.

Step Four: Actually SOLVE the problem.

A simple and sincere, “What would you like me to do?” is the best way I know to handle it. Experience has shown me that if you give your customers the power to pick a solution, they will almost always be reasonable.

Of course, there may be an occasional knucklehead who will make a crazy request, but deal with these situations on an individual basis.

As a rule, give your customers the benefit of the doubt. They’re not taking advantage of you, they are giving you a gift!

One final statistic…

“A customer that has their problems satisfactorily solved will provide 3 times the revenue of a customer that has never had a problem.”

(That’s from How To Win Customers And Keep Them For Life by Michael LeBoeuf.)

WOW.

Empower your staff to make things right. They may occasionally make a mistake, but the benefits of amazing service will far outweigh the occasional misstep.

Especially since nerves are so frayed right now … we need to do this well.

We’re in your corner.

Warmly,

 

Stephen Venuti

(610) 353-0686

Stephen J. Venuti, CPA, MST, LLC

 

I’m grateful for our chance to serve you and your business — and we are dedicated to its success, in every season.

Feel free to forward this article to a business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance. While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for families and business owners.

Stephen Venuti’s Four Steps To Properly Handle Upset Customers