When to Choose Employee Support Over Customer Support

Posted March 06, 2013

--By Janine Popick

If you're in the business of serving customers (which most, if not all, of us are), then you know the mantra, “the customer is always right.” Well, I'm here to say, that's not always the case.

Some of you may be clutching your proverbial pearls, but let me explain.

All good business owners know they need to embrace what their customers say, including any changes they'd like to see. Sometimes the criticisms can feel a little harsh, especially since they're aimed at "your baby." But that kind of honest feedback only helps your company become more successful, and telling your employees to go above and beyond to help customers is not an unreasonable expectation.


And it's not just your customer service and retail staff, either; every employee touches some aspect of the customer's experience with your company. If you're in the business of creating a product or service, your product team must dream up new ways to provide more value to customers, and they need to know and respect what customers are saying.

Your marketing and sales teams make sure customers know about you and choose you over your competitors, so the feedback they receive out in the field is invaluable, too.

Dealing with Challenging Customers

But once in awhile, you'll get a customer who's just plain difficult. Say your team is dealing with a particularly feisty customer who isn't happy with your product or his or her experience. Here are a few initial ways that your employees can handle the situation:

  • Help clear the roadblock(s) that he or she is having, whether it be an exchange, refund or one-on-one guidance. If it's a technical issue, do as much as you can for the customer on the back-end; if it requires an action on the customer's part, provide detailed, step-by-step instructions
  • Always be courteous and respectful (kill 'em with kindness, as they say)
  • Be timely with responses; making an irate customer wait will only anger him or her even more
  • Document all communications, including emails, phone calls and follow-ups, so that the team can stay updated on progress and refer to past communications if necessary

These strategies will resolve the vast majority of customer problems. But, of course, there are times when the customer is still not satisfied.

When to Fire a Customer

At this point, it's your job as the business owner or CEO to look at the situation fairly and determine who's right and who's wrong. Sometimes, it's pretty clear that the fault lies with the customer. And in these moments, it's critical for your employees to know that you're willing to stand up for them and let go of a customer's business.

What are some reasons for “firing” a customer?

  • If he or she continues to abuse your product, service and/or policies despite all the help and assistance from your team to improve the experience
  • If he or she personally attacks, threatens or belittles your team
  • If he or she has a track record of complaining or unreasonable requests

Sure, you might lose some revenue, but having your employees know that their CEO's got their backs is worth more than a few extra bucks, in my opinion. It makes your employees feel more confident in both their work and who they're working for.

Has your company ever dealt with a customer who was clearly in the wrong? How did you handle it?

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, a provider of self-service email, social and event marketing solutions for small businesses. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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