Afraid of addressing angry customers? Today Josh Ludin will discuss how you can turn these angry customers into buyers instead.

It’s that email that every young business dreads, an email filled with words like, “immediate refund,” “not what I expected,” “waste of money!” It’s not only the lost sale that hurts, but business owners take this kind of stuff personally. It’s as if the angry customer is directly insulting you, rather than the product that they want to be refunded. You literally want to fly to the customer’s house, knock on their door, and yell “ARE YOU KIDDING ME! WHAT WAS WRONG WITH YOUR PURCHASE?” But of course, that’s not the best method of customer service. So, you decompress, and decide to address the displeased customer strategically. Trying to explain or defend yourself isn’t going to cut it. Instead, trying to build a rapport may give you the chance to earn a paying customer again.

While working for Blind Surprise, an eCommerce business which sent out mystery gift boxes, I found these types of customer situations inevitable.

But the truth is, I no longer dread these emails. Rather, I’m excited by the challenges that they bring. The truth of the matter is that communication with any customer, happy or upset, can be a learning experience if you make it one. It’s pretty rare to hear from the happy customers. Think about it, when was the last time you bought something online, were happy with the delivery, and reached out to the company to let them know how great of an experience you had? That’s not typically why people reach out.

The key to turning an angry customer into a paying fan comes down to transparent communication. If people are unimpressed with your services, and you know that you delivered value to them equal or exceeding what they spent, you need to let them know that by providing thorough explanations, and generally opening up the floor for them to provide feedback. The first time an upset customer communicates with you, they’ll typically be pretty heated, so once you give them the opportunity to cool down, you can really learn a lot from them. Let me give you a specific example of how we flipped an upset customer into a paying fan in just a couple of emails.  This email chain is from the inbox of our ‘mystery box’ customer service.  I’ll use the name “John” for privacy.

Email #1 – The Furious Shout Out

Hey, this is my first box that I’ve ever received from you all….I’m really unimpressed. The thing you sent me costs $7.99 on think geek. I paid almost $30 for this? Is this a scam? -John.

Email #2 – The Calm Response

Hey John – thanks a lot for reaching out.  I’m sorry to hear this! That is not at all how we want people to feel after getting a Blind Surprise, and thanks for sharing this information with us.  The supplier we worked with marks these at 27.49 MSRP and as a business, we paid half of that, so nearly 14 dollars per piece.  We got dumped on this one, so we aren’t too pleased either.  I’m going to reach out to them right after this email.  Anyhow, we’re obviously not in the business of upsetting people, so just let me know if you’d like a refund and I’ll process it right away.  Take it easy John, have a great day and I appreciate you reaching out with this info.”

Email #3- Customer Response

“Hey Josh, thanks for your candid response. I really like the concept of what you guys are doing here, so I’ll probably try another box again in the future. This one just didn’t woo me over so I will take a refund on this one. Thanks!”

Email #4 – Further Explanation and Polite Refund

“Thanks – finding tech related gifts in the $25 dollar range is definitely tough.  We’re working hard to improve the inventory selection we have there. Just sent over your refund – take it easy.”

Email #5 – Learning Experience from Angry Customer

“Hey Josh – I buy a lot of tech stuff in that range, and I find that the majority of stuff on think geek is awesome. That’s a great place for ideas. This particular one didn’t make a lot of sense to me because why would you want the option to turn off power to your phone while it’s plugged in? Isn’t that what the act of unplugging it is for? If it’s plugged in, I want it to be charging, you know?”

Within 30 minutes, we were able to be to take a customer who thought we were scammers to the point where he said he would consider giving us a shot in the future, and made a great suggestion for a new vendor.

Rather than just emailing him with an “OK, here is your refund” and never hearing from him again, we sent out a completely transparent email, explaining exactly what happened with his purchase, and triggered communication.  And spoiler alert – “John” does end up purchasing from us again in the future.

Take customer service seriously and learn to love every interaction with customers, positive or negative.  If they bothered to give you their credit card in the first place, they probably know more about your customer experience than even you.  So go ahead and learn from them and send them a nice email, even if you have to force that smile.

Josh Ludin is a guest blogger at Planday. Josh writes about eCommerce growth tips, particularly subscription eCommerce, Never Job Hunt. His goal is to help college students understand the potential and opportunities that lie within eCommerce, and assist young professionals build and grow online businesses.

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