Effective communication with customers to resolve conflicts and disputes is probably the most essential attribute a small business must have. No matter how big or small, customer complaints will undermine the integrity of your company and could devastate your business endeavors. Good public relations doesn’t only address a difficult situation, but it can also restore the relationship with the client from bad to good again, thus saving your company’s reputation.
Before we get to crafting appropriate letters to communicate to customers who are difficult, let’s look at the most common types of customers every business encounters.
Researchers Allen F. Wysocki, Karl W. Kepner, and Michelle W. Glasser, from the University of Florida, published their paper outlining that there are five main types of unhappy customers. Each has a different way of handling and you should read on to find out.
The Meek Customer
Meek Customers can be particularly frustrating to business owners because, although they’re dissatisfied in some way with a service or product, they seldom make their concerns known—at least not to you. What they usually do is spread their opinion on to others through reviews, social media posts, and direct communication with others. This is why it is important to reach out to your clients for feedback with follow-up inquiries about their experience with you. You will then know if your customer’s are satisfied or not and be able to address any concerns, if there are any.
You can automate an email blast that sends out a request for review or feedback from the customer after a week of purchasing your product or service then always be on the lookout for the terrible responses and resolve anything your business can do.
Sending a letter to communicate your regret on their unsatisfactory experience and offering to rectify the situation usually soothes these customers. Often, it leads them to tell others how nice it was for you to reach out to them in that way, instead of what could have been something detrimental to your business.
The Aggressive Customer
These customers are unhappy, and they let it be known loud and clear. They are resistant to respond to communications to fix the problem, or snap back with even more aggression. Handling the Aggressive Customer requires tact and patience.
Before addressing this type of customer’s concerns, you must thoroughly investigate the situation. Gather information concerning every aspect of the customer’s journey from their first point of contact with your employees to any activities during their purchase including all records in your system.
When composing your letter, choose your words carefully. The Aggressive Customer will dissect every word, so it’s not what you say but how you say it. Use a sincere and caring tone. Open the letter with a respectful summary of the complaint and the situation as you understand it. Unless you know that your company is at fault, DO NOT apologize for the circumstances.
Example: I understand that you are dissatisfied with your purchase from our website that resulted in a bill for $XX.XX.
If your company is at fault, apologize sincerely. Acknowledge any inadequacies and explain the measures that are being taken to rectify the problem.
If you are undeniably free from liability, simply explain your company’s fees or procedures in a forthright manner. Express your commitment to customer service and pride in your company’s willingness to make things right. Express a wish for a mutually beneficial accommodation and then close with a promise to call them for further discussion—inviting the customer to call you instead, if they prefer—and thank them for choosing your business.
Close the letter with the hope of doing continued business in the future.
Your follow-up is most critical. You must be sure to make that call.
The High-Roller Customer
These are people who always expect the best of everything—perfectionists as we may call it. They are willing to pay for it, but can be extremely difficult to deal with if there is ever an issue with their product or service. They can often be much like the Aggressive Customer when disgruntled; however, more reasonable.
Use the same approach to letter writing with these customers in the same manner as you would do with the Aggressive Customer, but with a less cold tone. They are usually more flexible and willing to compromise.
The Rip-Off Customer
This archetype wants something for nothing—usually something to which they are not entitled. When dealing with a Rip-Off Customer, it’s important to keep your personal feelings at bay. You’ll realize what they’re trying to do, but you must be careful in dealing with them in the same way as you would with every other customer.
Before writing a letter for this customer, make sure you can back up your position with documentation, records, and anything that dispels their claim. Approach this letter with a firm tone and make no apologies. State that you wish to rectify the situation, but you will maintain customer service policy.
The Rip-Off Customer is the primary reason for implementing a solid customer service policy within a company. Keep to it and there is nothing he or she can do about whatever the outcome is because of the policy. You want to be delicate with them and end each communication with a positive note to keep them from spreading bad comments about your company.
The Chronic Complainer
You can never satisfy this customer. Something is always wrong and needs your attention. Thankfully, these customers are usually easy to deal with and are willing to find the easiest solution. However, extreme patience is required because they usually fish for more than what they can get from you.
Treat this customer cautiously as they will take advantage of any good graces wherever possible. If you can, offer multiple solutions and let them choose—not only do they get flexibility with more options, it also gives them a feeling of satisfaction to think that they’ve resolved their own problem.
Follow-up with the Chronic Complainer often, this will let them know you care, and it’ll give you the opportunity to keep an eye on the interactions and behaviors.
The Bottom Line
Not all customers can be categorized in these five types. There are a few outliers who’ll raise hell with your company differently than the rest and what you should always keep in mind is to always treat your customers politely, no matter how wrong they are. You have a business and you must keep professionalism at all times because when people get word that you’ve been standing up negatively to any customer—good or bad—you’ll risk getting a bad reputation and that will scare other customers away.
Customers from hell are all part of being in business. Take them as a challenge and once you’ve created a good customer service road map, no one customer can take your business down.