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Ouch. You missed a deadline for one of your key customers through no fault of your own. The customer becomes enraged and tells you they will never do business with you again. You fear not only the loss of business revenue but perhaps a legal issue as well. We live in a very litigious world.
Uh-Oh. You are alerted that an angry customer has written a scathing review of your establishment (say a restaurant) on an online site – one of those ‘complaint’ sites, or else has penned negative comments on a Facebook or other Social Media site. What do you do?
The above scenarios happen often in business. The challenge is how to deal with them to minimize any damage as well as reducing or eliminating any legal exposure.
For the first scenario, you need to put on your diplomatic hat and defuse the situation as much as possible.
You will need to concede that the customer has a right to be irate. You should listen and assess the complaint in a courteous and civilized manner. Getting angry or defensive yourself does not solve anything – in fact, many times, the situation gets worse. You should also be aware that you are dealing with two sources of anger – the actual miscue and the customer’s emotional reaction to the problem. Listen and be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes by remembering how you feel when you believe a company or service provider fails to meet your needs or expectations. Speak in calming tones and, above all, exercise some patience.
The next step is to focus on the problem. Can you correct the issue? If so, how long will it take? Will a refund work? What about a free product or service to keep the customer doing business with you while you work through the problem? Focus on resolving the issue in the best way you can and place the customer’s interests first and the glitch second.
Next, you should do a thorough analysis of why the problem has occurred in the first place and do whatever is necessary to make sure it never happens again. Of course, if the situation has escalated to unmanageable levels, then contact your business attorney and make sure any applicable insurance is up to date. If litigation does raise its ugly head, then you will want a strong legal advocate in your corner.
How do you handle the negative online criticism? A bad review can be devastating for a business. Many businesses covet good reviews on Yelp, Google+ and Yahoo. While customers have a First Amendment right to express themselves, some businesses are striking back with libel or defamation lawsuits and retraction demands, especially if the review is more of a rant and not factual.
One woman in Virginia was sued recently for $750,000 by a contractor for allegedly untrue online criticism on Yelp. Thus, you may have a cause of action depending on the business and the ‘review.’ It’s easy to rant to the cyber world, but more businesses are monitoring their online presence for negative feedback and fighting back because of the extensive damage that such feedback might inflect upon a business. Freedom of speech does not extend to defamatory statements.
The Metcalf Adair Law Firm offers experienced business counsel and can assist you with your business legal issues such as angry, litigious customers. To learn more about issues surrounding angry customers, or how we can assist you in a related matter, contact us today to schedule a consultation.