You want all of your client experiences to be a breeze, but there are always some customers who just can't seem to be satisfied. And because "the customer is always right," the responsibility for making amends falls squarely on your shoulders.
When facing angry customers, these six entrepreneurs have used their tact (and sometimes a perk or two) to diffuse the situation.
Offer something unbeatable to keep their business.
If you're trying to placate an unhappy customer, take both big and small steps to demonstrate your commitment to their business. Brett Farmiloe, founder of digital marketing agency Markitors, knows the power of throwing in a few perks when making up for a mistake.
"We recently experienced an email faux pas with one of our customers, and decided to make it up to them by doing something we would normally charge several thousand dollars for. It didn't hurt to bring in doughnuts to their office, either," says Farmiloe.
Listen without getting defensive.
"A fired-up customer wants nothing more than to let someone have it. Let them speak," says Jessica Brown, owner and designer at wedding dress business Ivy & Aster. Sometimes the customer just needs to vent before you can acknowledge the problem and offer a solution.
"Don't get defensive, no matter how much you may want to, or how much you disagree," says Brown. "Then, summarize what they've just told you. Stating it back to them lets them know you hear them and are focused on the issues. If you see a solution, offer it up. Otherwise, a simple acknowledgement goes a long way."
Reiterate your values and move on.
Firas Kittaneh, CEO and co-founder of memory foam mattress company Amerisleep, understands that walking away can be the best solution, especially when facing an irate customer who refuses to be satisfied.
"There's merit in 'standing your ground' sometimes. While normally it pays to be diplomatic, you also don't want to be taken advantage of," says Kittaneh. "So whenever you have an angry customer who is committed to being unhappy, reiterate your company values and walk away. That way, they know where you stand and where you've drawn the line so they can stop aggressively pursuing you."
Apologize and offer free products or services.
In today's always-online world, there's a risk that angry customers will leave a negative review of your company for everyone to see. That's why Marcela De Vivo, CEO of digital marketing agency Gryffin, believes you should appease the customer no matter what.
"The problem with walking away and leaving them angry is that those angry customers can then use online review systems to disparage your company. At some point everyone can be appeased, you just have to keep trying and offer them something to make the problem go away," says De Vivo. "Whether it's offering them a refund or free products/services -- it's worth keeping them happy."
Introduce your own perspective.
Matt Doyle, vice president and co-founder of custom home builder Excel Builders, has seen positive results by turning the tables and telling the customer how a negative interaction is making him feel.
"Some can get wrapped up in the idea that they're being persecuted, and they rationalize it no matter what happens," says Doyle. "Most will recommend ending contact with these people, but sometimes taking a stand can break the spell of their self-centered narrative. In one case, I got an apology and a commitment to continue working together right after sending an email about how much one dispute was hurting me."
Refer them to vendor that's a better fit.
"Sometimes, a customer isn't suited to your business and your business would be better off without them," says Vik Patel, CEO of VPS hosting service Future Hosting. When all else fails, recognizing that you aren't the right fit and referring them to a different vendor ends your relationship on a positive note.
"Our platform is easy to use with a minimum of technical knowledge required, but that minimum matters," says Patel. "If you don't know what a server is or even what you might use it for, we may gently encourage you to find a more appropriate vendor."