Customer complaints

This week’s guest blog post is by our virtual assistant, Mel Smith, from Bookkeeping Covered. Mel spent five years making and selling modern cloth nappies before becoming a virtual assistant in 2013. She now helps small business owners manage their bookkeeping, websites, and other admin tasks. She lives in Adelaide with her husband, two boys and two cats.

Customer complaints are a normal part of doing business. It’s never easy to hear that you’ve screwed up, or that someone thinks you have. How do you handle that?

Fortunately, most of the time the customer is polite, which makes it a lot easier.

Still, it can be stressful having to correct something that went wrong. But if you have a plan in place, things go a lot more smoothly!

How you handle customer complaints will say a lot about you, so you need to stay classy.

Your first strategy comes even before you get your first customer. If you have a warranty or terms of service posted clearly on your website, half the work is already done. You’ll be able to refer to it anytime a customer asks for a refund or replacement. It’ll tell you and them whether the claim is justified.

In your warranty, state exactly what your terms are – such as proper use and care of the product, how long you’ll replace or refund for faulty merchandise, and how a customer should contact you in case they need to claim on their warranty. Most people are honest, and won’t try to make a warranty claim on a product they’ve broken accidentally or misused.

However, sometimes people do try to claim a refund on an item they’ve misused. It’s up to you whether you stick to your guns and refuse, or do it to keep them happy and avoid bad press. Both have their pros and cons.

And then there are those customer complaints that are anything but polite. These are the ones every business owner dreads.

First, remain calm, and remember that you can’t please everyone all the time. Be polite, empathetic, and diplomatic. Whether you’re religious or not, you gotta admit that bit in Proverbs that says ‘a soft answer turns away wrath’ is pretty spot on most of the time!

If the customer continues to be unreasonable or even threatening, resolve their issue as best you can, and move on. If they keep harassing you about it, it is TOTALLY OKAY to take whatever other action you deem necessary – be it deleting/blocking their emails, banning them from your Facebook page, or even notifying the authorities if you feel threatened.

For more information on warranties, refunds, and returns, see these links at the ACCC website.

ACCC publication on refunds & returns

Warranties against defects

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