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How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Your Online Business Dealing with Difficult Customers Guide by David Bond

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David Bond
Entrepreneur, Writer, and Businessman

David Bond is a freelance writer for He has worked in leadership positions in both online and bricks & mortar businesses.

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How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Your Online Business How to Deal with Difficult Customers in Your Online Business - Article by David Bond

The world is filled with all kinds of people, and if you are in business you will encounter many different types of customers. Some are easy to please and a pleasure to do business with, but others can be quite difficult to please and quite difficult to deal with. If your business is an online enterprise, then communicating with difficult customers is a special challenge, because you are working from a distance and can easily get into problems if your e-mails are misunderstood.

I have been working online for the past five years and have found that most people are quite friendly and fun to work with. When I do encounter the rare problem customer, here are a few things that I do to work out the problems with a difficult client or customer:

1. Adopt the policy that "the customer is always right"
Even though I know that the customer may be short-tempered and quick to blame me for a fault that is not mine, I try to hold back my feelings, and calmly answer each e-mail, giving the information that the customer requests. The distance of an e-mail interaction is probably helpful in this case, because if I were face-to-face I might over-react or show my displeasure, which would only make things worse. So, if you get unjustified complaints or demands for service that are not in your contract, just relax and try to deal with them as best you can.

2. Carefully read and reread any customer complaint before taking any action
If you have a customer who is already unsatisfied with you or your company, you can't afford to make any more mistakes. Look at the complaint very carefully and make sure that you understand everything before responding. Although I say it is best to say that "the customer is always right" from the very start without even thinking, in many cases the customer will in fact be right and it is important to deal with the problem as best you can.

3. Pre-empt customer action by calling them first
When you have a difficult customer it is best to contact her by telephone before she contacts you. Although you can try to deal with everything by email, a customer will really appreciate it if you take the extra time to call her and explain how you are working to solve the problem. The extra phone call is something that is "above and beyond the call of duty," and will be appreciated by your customer. Also, a phone call allows a better kind of communication than a simple e-mail.

4. Give some extra service to a difficult customer
If indeed you have made a mistake or caused inconvenience to your client or customer, then it is best to make up for it by providing some extra product or service as compensation. You goal should be to build up as many long-term clients and customers as you can, and it is good to maintain your good will with as many people as possible. The "difficult" customer may have many friends who are quite alright, and some of these friends could end up becoming your customers in the future. How you handle your customers should be considered as part of your overall public relations strategy.

5. Be ready to offer a refund and work on a satisfaction guaranteed basis
You can minimize problems with clients and customers by stating from the outset that you work on a satisfaction-guaranteed basis, and will make refunds if anyone is not happy with the work or the product. Do your best to work out each problem, but if in the end you are not able to satisfy the customer, offer a refund.

One would think that a lot of dishonest people could take advantage of such generosity and make unjustified refund claims, but my finding is that most of the people I deal with are honest and are not out to cheat me.

6. Pre-screen customers or clients if possible
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are offering a service or product that is difficult to use or apply then you may not want to have everyone as a customer. Put a query form somewhere in the order process, so that the customer will contact you and give you some information before pressing the order button. This is especially useful if you offer complex services such as graphic design, web design or editing. When you get the queries you can then try hard for the orders that you can fulfill easily and discourage those that you think are likely to end up in difficulty.

Think about these tips and try them out the next time you get a customer who is hard to please.

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better." Jeff Bezos Quote

This article by David Bond may not be reproduced online in part or whole. Copyright ©

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