Occasionally there comes a time, and more importantly a situation, where you have to say “No!” to a customer. The old expression, ‘the customer is always right!’ is BS and if you truly believe in your offering, then you have to make a simple decision – stand strong in certain situations and turn that individual away, or perhaps make too many ‘exceptions’ and sacrifice what you and the company stands for.
Many companies, particularly SMEs, haemorrhage capital because they pay blood money to unfair customers. This of course is highly subjective in terms of your company and its offering. No matter how all-encompassing your terms and conditions are or how nicely you explain the situation, some people are just out to get more for less at your expense.
Let’s be honest though, it’s always a dilemma – some factors make you think “Screw it, I’ll take the hit this once”:
- I need the money
- Perhaps if I bend on this occasion it will be a once-off
- If I’m nice they’ll come back again
- I should take the hit because they will bad mouth me if not
- If they bad mouth me on a website or using their social network it could be very damaging to me and my business
Then again, you also take into consideration that perhaps you were in the right:
- It was in the terms and conditions
- They are rude and aggressive – do I really want them back?
- Their claims are unfair and unjust
- They’ve done this before
So how do you decide? There is no hard and fast rule for dealing with customer complaints, but here is a few pointers for dealing with the situation that may help you decide:
- Is their argument valid and within the lines of consumer rights for your area?
- Do the terms and conditions back them up? Or are you covered in them?
- Does it apply to an individual or product/service? If an individual, contact that person and get the ‘other side’ of the story if possible – do the stories match up?
- Have you received any other complaints from other people on this matter?
- Have you received any other complaints from this particular individual?
- How big is the problem financially e.g. can you afford to take the hit?
- Have you Googled them? Have they a big social and online presence? (don’t underestimate the power of the old school word-of-mouth either)
- Is your business high-end niche that prides itself and going above and beyond for one and all customers?
- Is your business a low volume, high margin model that relies heavily on repeat business?
- Were they nice or at least logical in their method of complaining?
- Gut instinct – in an ideal world do you really think they should be getting compensation for their complaint?
If the answer is ‘no’ to the majority of the answers above, say ‘no’. As a profit-making business, it’s your duty to provide customers with the service and/or products you’ve outlined and to create an understanding of what they are getting for their money. Not to just bow to every irate individual who picks up the phone and wants an unjust pound of flesh.
Conclusion – the ‘how’
There are ways to minimise the above (not avoid) by making sure you communicate clearly what your offering is and the price as well as terms and conditions. However, I would stress: a) treat each argument as objectively as possible b) ensure that you have an understanding of consumer rights and c) even if you’re dealing with an aggressive loony, be nice – ignorance is not the way to say ‘no’!
What’s your view on answering complaints? When have you said no? What was the complaint and how did you deal with it?