By August 26, 2013 0 Comments Read More →

Problem Customers

Problem CustomersEarly on you’ll start to encounter occasional problem customers. Your fair and courteous treatment of difficult situations will help establish your online reputation and could have a big impact on your job satisfaction and peace of mind.

Real ‘Problem Customers’ Are Rare

In nearly all cases, customers who seem combative, irrational, or even dishonest are really normal people who are under unusual pressure or are having a bad day. It’s important to put yourself in the position of your customer, never assume that people are being dishonest until there’s real proof, and ask yourself whether their communication could be justified under difficult circumstances.

In our business we’ve found only about one individual in 5,000 to be a real problem customer. However, this can definitely be influenced by the type of products you sell. For reasons described in my article about Good vs. Terrible Product Ideas, I encountered far more problem customers when I ran a different category of online business. Since dealing with problem customers can be a big source of frustration, you should consider this possibility as you choose your product idea.

Here are guidelines I’ve learned for different types of difficult customers.

  1. Good people who are having a bad day really aren’t a problem at all, and will comprise nearly everyone who at first seems irrational or confrontational. These individuals might, for example, have an unusually urgent need for your product or be unsure about the safety of shopping online. It’s important to respond to these individual quickly, with the utmost courtesy, in a way that assures them you’re honest and fair.
  2. Truly abusive customers are rare, and will usually make themselves known early-on. An example of abusive behavior is to demand a big discount and to imply a threat or use profanity if you don’t agree. Once an individual displays abusive behavior, your best option is to to communicate with courtesy and respect but to avoid making the sale. If the individual is already your customer you’ll be tempted to refund the purchase in hope of ending the abuse. However we’ve found that combative customers can continue to cause problems even after you’ve refunded their money and let them keep the product for free.
  3. Self-destructive consumers are rare but can be a big concern. With improper use almost any product can cause injury or financial loss. If you receive a communication from anyone that suggests they might use your product in a harmful way, always explain the potential outcome in clear and explicit terms. If the individual seems determined to proceed, do everything possible to avoid making the sale.
  4. Customers who commit outright fraud are rare, but require you to always be meticulous in your record keeping. Fortunately a good payment processor can prevent your dealing with the vast majority of cases where, for example, someone claims that they’ve never bought your product. In cases where an individual says that your product was bought but never delivered, we’ve found that while UPS isn’t perfect overall, they have been very reliable in either issuing an insurance payment or, after investigation, getting the customer to admit a mistake.

In every case, your best option is to communicate with respect and recognize that email can be dangerous if you’re not careful with your communication.

Next: Email is Dangerous

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