Top 5 Tips for Speedy Customer Conflict Resolution

Wed, Sep 12, 2012


If you run a small business, you’re pretty much guaranteed to come across a dissatisfied customer at some point during the year. And chances are it will be more than one. You might have the best product on the market, offer quick and painless troubleshooting free of charge and even deliver above and beyond what you promise. But it doesn’t matter. Regardless of your best intentions, not every customer interaction is going to go smoothly. The numbers are simply against you. As your business grows so do the number of customers, and perfection is just impossible. So instead of bemoaning your fate, prepare yourself for the inevitability. Here are five of the top tips for speedy customer conflict resolution.

If you want the issue handled fast, then you need to respond fast. Make sure that the system you have in place to report customer issues is working properly, and that you are alerted as near to instantaneously as possible. The longer a customer remains dissatisfied, the greater the chance he’ll share that upset with others, potentially costing you future customers. So respond to your customer as quickly as possible. Even if you don’t yet have a prepared response, and even if you know their issue hasn’t been resolved. Just the fact that you’re calling and telling the customer that you are working on the situation will help diffuse things.

When you do call your customer, make sure you close your mouth and open your ears. You’re going to be tempted to tell the customer why things went so poorly, or to dispute that his issue is truly valid. Anything you jump in and say will not help things. No matter how difficult it may be, let the customer air out all their frustrations before you respond. Otherwise, you may not hear the key element of the conflict, or you may actually increase your customer’s frustrations.

Once you’ve heard your dissatisfied customer out, it’s time to respond. And your response should be as clear and professional as possible. You might be frustrated, or even personally offended. But put those emotions aside in favor of your business. Tell your customer that you’ve heard the issue, you understand it completely, and even repeat it back to them. Ask them if you’ve covered anything. They’ll be pleasantly surprised that you’re taking them so seriously. That alone will do much to resolve the situation and maintain your company’s relationships.

At this point you’ve got to get down to resolving the issue. Once you’ve solved the problem, don’t forget to follow up with your customer. You may never win them back as a customer, but at least they won’t be able to say you didn’t address their concerns and solve the problem. And chances are you might even receive an apology.

Finally, try to take a lesson out of the interaction that you can use going forward in your business. Look at each conflict as an opportunity to train your customer service team. You may have learned something about alternative dispute resolution, or uncovered an issue with your product or service that can be fixed. At the very least, you’ll understand a common concern that your staff should be made aware of. Use the conflict for training, and you’ll most likely avoid it happening again in the future.

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