Like it or not, sticky situations happen all the time when you’re a small business owner. And when they do, they create the perfect opportunity for you, as a boutique business, to step up. Think about it. If you can overcome a negative situation with a customer, you take that customer beyond basic satisfaction. Now they’re not displeased—they’re thrilled.
One of our customer service mantras comes from renowned author, speaker, and customer service guru John DiJulius. His phrase, “It’s not your fault but it is your problem” really makes sense to us. As small business owners we know that problems can arise, without fault. Fault or no fault, the problems will still exist, and they need to be overcome. If clients aren’t thrilled, if they have to settle, if they don’t receive the best service, product, and value, then they can’t brag about your business.
Overcoming or addressing problems is not only a responsibility— it’s also an opportunity. In a boutique business, there’s not a policy manual to cover every problem, and we usually don’t have the time or money to find adequate substitutes for our custom products. Our products are matchless. So how do we handle problems?
1. View the customer as a friend. The most important thing to remember when handling mistakes, whether it’s your fault or not, is to focus on maintaining the relationship. You wouldn’t look at a friend and say, “Deal with it, it’s not my fault.” No—you’d ask how the situation can be resolved. Remember, you’re a boutique business, and strong relationships are a huge part of what you offer. Because you’ve established “worth it” prices that give you the financial freedom to remedy any situation that may arise, own the relationship. Treat the customer like a friend you don’t want to disappoint. Make good on any bad situation. In fact, make great on the situation.
2. Ask for ideas. Solutions that might make you happy aren’t necessarily what will make your customer happy. Ask what you can do to make the situation right. Often it’s less than what you would
3. Seek the opportunity. Most customers will look past mistakes as long as you own them, show intent to fix them, and are transparent and clear about the process, cost, and time associated with the remedy.
4. Seek negative feedback. We understand how great it feels to have customers who rave about your business, but negative feedback is actually more valuable than positive feedback. Granted, it’s often hard to find. That’s why you need to make a point of searching for negative feedback. If you run into a negative situation with a client, talk to him. The people who might be upset or displeased are much more likely to give you perspective on how you can improve your business. It’s a valuable perspective that your biggest fans can’t provide. When you find the negative stuff, use it as an opportunity to bounce back. Don’t automatically become defensive, and be sure to let your customer know that you value their honesty even if you don’t agree with them. Personally reach out to the parties who are unhappy with you and make good.
One of our favorite businesses for delivering incredible customer service is Simplicity Sofas, an online business. Not only have they never had a negative review crop up online, they go out of their way to turn any experience that isn’t perfect into one a client can rave about. Later this week, we’ll share more about how Simplity Sofas has set a high customer service standard in an excerpt from our new book, Worth Every Penny: Build a Business That Thrills Your Customers and Still Charge What You’re Worth.
So tell us – when faced with problems in your small business? What do you do to overcome them and turn the experience into one your clients will rave about? We can all learn from each other and we’d love to hear your creative ideas for solving problems please post them on our small business blog.