Why Cranky Customers Can be Good for Small Business

Posted by Stephanie Valentine on December 1, 2009 in Small Business Customer Service |

small business customer loyaltyHave you noticed that the number cranky customers is on the rise? This isn’t a huge surprise, since the current economic situation tends to make people testy about anything to do with money, including shipping fees, taxes, and product cost. And while it may be irritating to deal with unhappy customers, finding ways to soothe these customers can actually increase your small business profitability and generate customer loyalty in the long run.

Cranky Customers and Profitability: An Example
Recently I have had several interactions with cranky customers that has reshaped the way I handle customer service for my small businesses. In one case, a customer complained about the shipping cost for a single bottle of nutritional supplements he ordered from my small business website.

The bottle of supplements cost around $55 and the shipping ran about $8.50. The customer sent in a rude email complaining about the greed of my small business, and how my small business was taking unfair advantage of people suffering from economic woes by charging super-high shipping costs.

Unfortunately, being the distributor rather than the producer of this product, I wasn’t able to change the shipping charge. I sent the customer an email explaining this, and offering to send him a $5.00 check to ease the situation. After a few more grumpy emails back and forth, the customer finally realized that while my small business was not responsible for the actual shipping charge, I was offering to help.

When he finally understood the situation, he commented, “This says a lot about the integrity and helpfulness of your company. I will buy from you again.” While the $5.00 shipping reimbursement does cut into the profit margin for this single order, I now have a loyal customer who will shop with me again in the future. The value of that loyalty? Priceless!

Cranky Customers Just Need More Love

Everyone is under economic stress and, as a result, crankier than usual. If your small business encounters an unhappy customer, try this three step process to deflate the customer’s anger and create a loyal customer instead:

  1. Realize it’s not personal. Everyone is under stress. Once you realize this, you won’t be as tempted to get angry.
  2. Discover what the customer really wants. Try to see through all the bluster and find out what the customer is really asking for. Sometimes it’s just an apology, while other times it is a small token of appreciation, like the $5.00 shipping credit. In other words, most cranky customers feel bad (for whatever reason) and just need a little love.
  3. Take necessary action promptly. Once you reach a mutually acceptable solution to the problem (even if the customer wants to return the product for a full refund), take action now. Prompt action is another way to show consideration, and will often create customer loyalty even if the current transaction does not reach completion.

We are building an incredible customer base by following these three steps. With many retail stores, banks, and other large organizations are “under the gun” and failing to offer customers any freebies, instant and friendly customer service from your small business can often garner you loyal customers who would normally shop with larger companies.


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