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Tips to handle a customer are generally divided into handling the average customer and how to deal with those customers who are dissatisfied. The two areas have similar roots, since both dictate that those interacting with customers be exceedingly polite and gracious, even when a customer isn’t. They also have similar goals, which is to make the best effort to be sure a customer feels satisfied by the store or service. It’s probably not possible to satisfy every customer, and it’s especially difficult to help those with grievances.
It’s much easier to satisfy customers who aren’t upset. People interacting directly with customers can increase greater satisfaction by listening to what their customers want and need, being polite, by not using pushy sales tactics, and by attempting to add extra flourishes that emphasize customer care.
An extra flourish, as a method to handle a customer, doesn’t have to be time consuming. It could be as simple as checking on someone in a fitting room to ask if she needs other sizes, or offering cold or hot drinks for customers waiting for a service to be completed. Delivering groceries to a car, remembering customers’ names, and being honest about the limits of any service or merchandise are all good things.
While good manners, ethical sales tactics, and a few extras are useful for the average customer, they don’t satisfy upset people. Tips to handle a customer who is unhappy are slightly different, though the first two things a person should do when handling such a customer is to be polite and listen very carefully. It’s common knowledge that the upset customer wants to be heard on the issue at hand, and any show of indifference could escalate the person’s anger.
Whenever possible, the best tip to handle an upset customer is to rectify the complaint. Stores with generous return policies could simply offer store credit or an exchange if faulty merchandise has been purchased, or service industries might discount sales or offer complementary services if people are unhappy with quality. Not all businesses have these policies, though it’s been shown that companies that do often gain reputations for excellent customer service. Some employees are limited by less generous policies or the customer may not possess the necessary items (like receipts) that make rectifying a complaint possible.
If policies are stringent, it is especially important that the person attempting to handle a customer not make any promises that can’t be kept. Instead, after hearing the customer’s complaint and gently stating policy, employees should consider calling in someone with greater authority, like a manager. In most sales and service industries this is an expected part of the manager’s job. Managers may also have greater authority to override rules, if they believe customers have a legitimate grievance.
Good customer service makes the customer feel valued and important. Indifference or poor manners on the part of employees doesn’t create this impression. All employees should be trained on how to make customers feel welcome and attended to, and training should encompass ways to handle a customer who is unhappy.
You have to listen to customers to help them. I mean, really listen to what they want and need, to assess how you can best help them.
Customer service agents have to listen to every customer, and learn which questions to ask to get the information they need to help that person. For instance, if someone says they're unhappy about a situation, find out exactly what made them unhappy and see if you can offer some kind of recompense. If you can, that's great. You've probably kept a loyal customer.
Sometimes, people just want someone to listen to them. Being kind to everyone is never the wrong course of action.
I work for a newspaper, and when we get dissatisfied customers, it's usually on a fairly spectacular scale. They disagree with an editorial, so rather than just saying they disagree, they make pronouncements on a writer's moral character and fitness as a human being. This can be very, very difficult to handle.
Staying polite, of course, is sometimes the best way to diffuse a bad situation. It doesn't always work, though. However, if you have to give the person to a supervisor, make sure you tell the person who they will be speaking with and why. If you have been polite, then the caller is not as apt to rail at the supervisor about the person who was nasty to them on the phone.
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