Every business owner, at some point in his/her career, will face sharp and emphatic criticism by a customer, supplier, or competitor.
Whether the criticism or complaint comes about as the result of an honest mistake, an ignored customer, a failed product, a wicked competitor or from some other source – it will eventually happen.
No one appreciates being the brunt of verbal tirades and name-calling.
We all take offense to blame that belongs elsewhere and rude customers that get their jollies by preying upon the “hold your tongue” business owner that wants to avoid confrontation at all costs.
Criticism that is personal, emotional, and charged with vengeance, while not fun to endure, at least grows milder with time and can be thrown out with the rest of the business trash next Wednesday.
There is another kind of criticism, though, that no business owner should blow off. It is the other side of the sword, the second edge that is especially sharp and dangerous.
Criticism that your business isn’t delivering what it says it will … ought to be listened to intently; and further, it ought to be scrutinized in detail to identify the underlying reasons and causes for the customer discontent.
This is the kind of criticism, again, valid or not, that can ruin your business if ignored or swept under the rug.
There are many, many reasons why a customer can be deflated when he sees, tries, or uses your product or service.
Your job is to understand, from his point of view, why his purchase doesn’t meet his expectations.
He trusted you with his money. He expected to receive some level of value and satisfaction in return. But for whatever reason, your business didn’t produce as it was supposed to (at least in his eyes).
You have broken the customer’s trust and created a monster that will often spread the word within the niche that you don’t deliver, that you are out to rip off everyone that buys from you.
Sadly, it really doesn’t matter if the customer is being truthful or if he is totally lying about your lousy business or products. Perception in the minds of those he blabs to about your awful business is not much different than reality.
So how do you set the record straight? What can you do to calm the injured and make restitution sufficient to be forgiven?
The very first thing to do is to silence your critic. You don’t want any more ears listening in on this conversation than necessary. Get your dirty laundry out of the public eye immediately.
The best way to handle such a situation is to offer the wounded customer an immediate and on-the-spot no-questions-asked full refund. Give him his money back so the issue is no longer that you ripped him off.
Now he still may not like you or your product, but at least he has no basis for claiming that he was a hit-and-run victim of a scam artist.
I would do everything in my power to try to understand the customer’s real reason for being upset. Often the truth is hidden and covered with lots of excuses and reasons. Maybe the customer had a bad day, a blow-out with his wife, or he just felt the need to vent on anyone that happened to be near.
If you are going to get to the bottom of your search for your business’ failing, you have to peel back the outer layers and find the core of concern.
If you manage to get to that point, the criticism you initially received will become almost a favor, a blessing in disguise.
It will be a signal that alerts you to something in your business system or product that needs attention right now.
I’m reminded of the old adage, “a stitch in time saves nine.”
When initial criticism leads to the identification and repair of a potential catastrophe, making for a stronger and more customer-centric business, you should thank your lucky stars that your customer had the guts to speak up about his displeasure.
Of course, the customer is not really always right. But there is wisdom in treating him/her as though that was the case.
Some business owners will simply dismiss this suggestion. They will say they don’t have time for, or need the hassle of a disgruntled customer that is clearly at fault. It’s their business and they can serve whom they will.
I prefer to think of all my customers (both the good and the bad ones) as being worthy of my very best effort at customer care.
To your online business success!