Your Quick Guide to Handling “Scroogey” Customers This Holiday Season

Yes, the holidays are festive and fun. But, let’s be honest, they are also incredibly stressful on a number of levels, especially for business opportunity, franchise and other small business owners who are trying to manage so much during the season, not the least of which is meeting the oftentimes heightened expectations of holiday shoppers.

Long lines…tight turnaround…shipping problems… the possible list of what can and will go wrong is endless. So your customers are oftentimes just as stressed out as you are. The result? Patience wears thin and tempers run short. And when they do, let’s just say even the nicest people are capable of becoming a real Scrooge every once in a while.

While managing angry or dissatisfied customers is always a challenge, it’s perhaps hardest this time of year when you’re so busy that making any one customer a priority almost seems like a waste of your precious time. But it’s not…far from it in fact.

Consider this…

Research shows it costs five times as much to create a new customer as it does to retain an old one. Moreover, studies have shown time and again that the vast majority of customers, as much as 95% of them, are more than willing to continue doing business with a company that actually acknowledges and solves their problems quickly and satisfactorily than one that just doesn’t seem to care.

Okay, so you know a difficult customer or two likely will show up in your world this year one way or another, right? Why not start with an attitude of acceptance and be prepared?

To get you started, here are some key tips for defusing the “Scroogiest” of holiday shoppers’ anger this season and ensuring you see them again in the New Year:

Acknowledge their feelings—Validation is always the key to constructive problem solving. You need to express regret that your customer is having a negative experience and assure him/her that you will do whatever it takes to address their concerns.

Accept the basic premise that the customer is always right—You must start with the mindset that pleasing your customers, unless they are incredibly unreasonable, is your ultimate goal. Even in circumstances where you are certain you are not at fault, it’s wise to honor a reasonable request.

Ask your customer what would fix the problem—There’s nothing more effective than asking the customer directly what would make things right in his/her mind before you make a concrete offer. That way, if the request aligns with your way of thinking you know you’re in good shape. If not, you can adjust accordingly as much as possible so as not to disappoint.

Have Plans A, B and C ready—Give thought to what your three options are for assuaging dissatisfied customers in advance, and then you can use the one that best suits any situation as necessary. A minor foul up? How about giving the customer a coupon for 10% off their next purchase as a peace offering…that’s Plan A. Plan B might be a buy one-get one free offer, and Plan C a gift certificate of some kind.

Train your employees to handle problems—There is nothing more infuriating than going to an employee of an establishment with a problem, and they have no idea how or authority to fix it quickly. At the very least, make sure all of your employees are trained in the standard response of, “Let me find someone right away who can address your concerns to your satisfaction.” And if you’ve given them authority to act, you need to arm them with Plans A, B and C as well.

Hire enough help—It’s not like the holiday rush is a surprise…make sure you’ve got the staff to handle it, both in terms and quality and quantity.

Under promise, over deliver—As a general rule, this should be any smart business opportunity, franchise or other small business owner’s mantra, but especially during the holidays.

Be prepared to offer a refund—If your customer can’t be satisfied any other way, it’s okay to give them a refund. Just make sure that you leave him or her with as positive a feeling as possible about the overall exchange.