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How should I deal with customer complaints as a small business owner?

You can’t make everyone happy and that’s okay. You can treat everyone respectfully and do your best as a business owner to repair relationships with dissatisfied customers. Occasionally you will have someone who tries to take advantage of you, but for the most part people just want their expectations met when spending their hard-earned cash. Here are 5 ways to help you deal with customer complaints:

1. First, know the difference between venting a grievance and abusing your employees. We all get frustrated and want to felt heard when we are upset. That’s fair but there is a big difference between making a complaint and abusing others. You and your employees should be willing to listen to customers, but you should not allow vulgar, threatening, or abusive language to be used. There is no shame in asking someone to leave if this occurs. Not all relationships are worth saving and it is important to keep yourself and your team safe.

2. Next, you have to listen. This means - let them talk without interrupting to explain or correct the terms they’re using. Let them get the whole story out about what they expected, what they got, and why they are not happy with the product/service that was provided. What they have to say should be treated with importance, even if you already know they used the product incorrectly or whatever the case may be. Set those thoughts aside and just actively listen. You’ll get your turn to explain when they are done, and they’ll be more ready to respectfully listen after you’ve done so for them.

3. Be open to criticism and ways that your service or product may have fallen short. This is a tough one for some (myself included at times), but it is a big one. It can give you the chance to see ways to improve your business. Try to change your perspective and understand what the experience was like for the customer. It will also help you to think of great ways to remedy the situation and build loyalty with a customer that you may have lost.

4. Consider creating a policy that allows everyone to be treated equally when they are not satisfied with the experience they’ve had with your business. This obviously won’t work for every situation but there should be some sort of guideline to help ensure fair treatment among your customer base. Some people might say, “no refunds and only replacements.” Others may find more suitable to allow a time window for returns/complaints to be corrected.

5. Practice gratitude for the feedback and opportunity they are presenting to you. Remember they did not have to come to you first. They could have taken it to everyone else and shared their woes on all the social media platforms. Instead, they reached out and are giving you a chance to resolve it without all the dramatics of going viral for the wrong reason. Even if you disagree after listening, try to practice gratitude for their feedback when there are plenty of other ways they could’ve approached the situation. You don’t want your ratings going down and deterring others from doing business with you. That’s something to be grateful for.

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