Leadership

Use these 9 tips if you ever need to deal with an unhappy customer

Department Store Customer Service Desk.
Jeff Greenberg | UIG | Getty Images
Department Store Customer Service Desk.

As an entrepreneur, the last thing you want is an unhappy customer. Unfortunately, when you work with the public, that's probably going to happen.

Instead of looking at a disgruntled client as a nuisance, however, view the situation as a chance to learn something new about your service or product — and to make someone's day.

No matter your industry, prevention is the most effective medicine. You can keep customers from becoming unhappy with your company in the first place by using these nine strategies.

1. Clearly, define your customer base

You probably already have a good idea of who your customers are, but if you haven't looked at the specific demographics of who uses your product or service, you could be neglecting the needs of a consumer base you didn't even realize you had.

2. Create a user-friendly website

Keep customers happy with a website that is easy to navigate, socially structured and includes a contact page and FAQs.

3. Take opinion polls

Every so often, an opinion poll can give you the opportunity to hear directly from the clients what they want. The best marketing analytic software in the world can't give you quite the information that a well-designed opinion poll provides.

4. Improve your feedback system

Think social and local when you design your feedback system. Give customers lots of avenues to comment on your products or services, and lots of ways to get help if they need it.

Despite your best efforts, there will come a time when you have to deal with an unhappy customer. Whether you are a startup and will talk to these customers personally or you have employees who can do the dirty work for you, communication is the key to making your clients happy once again.

5. The customer is always right

At any rate, never tell a client that he is wrong — even if he is wrong.

6. Respond to complaints ASAP

The longer a customer has to wait to hear back from you, the more time he has to stew on his reasons for being upset.

7. Make it about the customer's needs

You never want negative feedback from a client. If that means you have to lose money to come to a compromise that the customer will be happy about, do it. Refunds can be a good investment when you keep a 99 percent satisfaction rate.

8. Use their ideas as part of the solution

Ask, "What can I do to make this right?" Even if you can't comply completely with his suggestion, your unhappy customer will know that you are willing to listen to his opinion and work with him.

9. When all else fails, give them a personal number to call

Sometimes, text and email just won't cut it — and nobody likes calling an 800 number. Keep a special cell phone for this purpose, and if you can't solve the problem through messaging, or your associates can't solve it over the phone, tell them you are giving them your personal number because you want to make this right.

Like it or not, dealing with unhappy customers is part of an entrepreneur's job. With these 9 tips, however, you can head off client discontent and more effectively communicate when a customer becomes dissatisfied. An unhappy customer doesn't mean the end of the world — it means a chance to improve.