Customer service comes in all shapes and sizes . . . from a cashier who smiles genuinely to a service tech that goes the extra mile to make sure everything is working for you just as intended to a clever little card enclosed with your purchase. Enter Anker, a Chinese electronics company, and my new portable charger. While I was sufficiently pleased with the charger, I was taken with their customer service insert. A small business card in size that was folded in half . . .
Compact, concise, thoughtful, and thorough. I was impressed enough to snap a few pictures and jot down a few words . . . to remember my dose of inspiration and perhaps extend the feeling to others. Establish your objective, however ordinary, and challenge your thinking to be somewhat extraordinary in your path to achieve it.
You can work to provide the best customer experience imaginable – sealing a rainbow and a hug with your perfect product in its perfect packaging – and you will still have the occasional unhappy customer. Sometimes, the issue is simply bad timing . . . a perfect storm in your customer’s life that culminates with your product underperforming in some perceived way (that’s more often a result of the person’s current frame of mind than actual underperformance). Sometimes, the fit isn’t a good one; the product or service isn’t what the individual expected (possibly even because he or she didn’t pay enough attention to the sales pitch or product specs prior to purchase). Regardless, one day you will be on the receiving end of bad publicity from an unhappy customer, and you’ll want to know the best way to handle the situation. Below are some different approaches with the selection of the right one dependent upon the specific circumstances of the bad press.
Sometimes, no response is the best response.
I have had a really hard time with this one in the past. It’s just so against my nature to not share my point of view. However, this approach can be the right choice when . . .
The customer discredits themself in the process . . . either by sounding a little crazy, exhibiting below average intelligence, or complaining about something that clearly isn’t the product’s fault. In other words, if your average person would read the quote, review, or feedback from the individual and not be convinced (for whatever reason) that your product was at fault, then just walk away. Your work is done. No input needed.
You have the potential to do more harm than good. Whenever you receive bad publicity, take a step back and try to look at the big picture. Does this negative press have the potential to negatively affect sales? If so, by how much? For how long? If the potential fallout is minimal, walk away. Count your losses and call it a day. Another important variable . . . how angry does this customer seem to be? When helping my son with his science homework recently, I was reminded by Newton that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction. If you counter your opposition, the chance always exists that they will find another way to strike back (especially if you’re dealing with one of those customers in the midst of that perfect storm in their life).
Turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.
This route is my favorite. When you see a problem that has a solution, strive for resolution. Regardless of whether you saw the complaint on facebook, on yelp, or in your local newspaper, the approach is largely the same. Reach out to the customer, let the person know you saw their issue, apologize for the misunderstanding (usually one exists in these situations), and try to remedy the problem. Upon reaching happy conclusion, I never ask for the individual to undo their negative press. Simply apologize, fix the problem, and thank the person for giving you the opportunity to do so. The majority of the time, the person will not only undo the negative, he or she will rave about your customer service. However, do be prepared for the small minority of people who have had their issue resolved and do not undo their bad publicity. In those cases, you then need to decide whether the potential fallout is bad enough that you need to take further action. If so, read on.
Mitigate the damage.
Sometimes, your customer’s problem is unsolvable (or he/she is unmoved by your solution) AND the associated publicity does have the potential to substantially impact your business. In those cases, you need to act, BUT always approach these situations with great caution. If you choose to respond by providing a quote to the reporter doing the story or as a direct response in a public venue (facebook, yelp or other review web site, your product web page, etc.), be sure to do the following:
First and foremost, be respectful. Do not speak at all negatively about the person or situation. If you do, readers will empathize with the customer. They will picture buying your product, having a problem, and being spoken to in that same negative manner.
Apologize . . . carefully. Despite whether you feel you’re at fault, your customer feels he or she has been wronged in some way. You have a public victim. That said, you’re probably not looking to claim full culpability either, so choose your words carefully. Apologize: for the misunderstanding, for the terrible experience that’s been endured, etc. Don’t say, “I apologize that my product was the cause of a terrible experience for you.” The difference is subtle but important.
Address the situation directly. This is the time to share your side of things. Nicely explain the issue from your perspective. Your goal is for a potential customer to hear both sides and agree with you . . . or at least feel your fault is limited enough that they would still patronize your business. I dug up two examples for you of 1-star reviews I’ve received that I felt warranted a response.
Focus on increasing your positive publicity. Work to counteract the negative message that was conveyed. For example, if a customer’s complaint of faulty workmanship on her home got media attention, try to get press coverage on all the beautiful work your company has done. That could mean applying for some recognition in your field (annual awards, etc.), which could then be promoted. Another route would be to introduce a new guarantee on your workmanship, which could be publicized. If you’ve done a job that was unique or special in some way, you could try to pitch the story to a reporter as a feature. In my line of work, when a product gets a negative review that needs to be addressed, I send messages to other customers who have purchased the same product, asking if they would be willing to share their experience. During this pandemic (while sales were at their worst for me), I needed to take this step. Here was my message:
Hi there. I would like to personally thank you once again for your purchase. During these hard times in particular, the fact that you are purchasing products from small businesses means so much — to me and my family. So please accept my sincerest thanks.
An additional step that is very meaningful is leaving a review. IF you have the time available AND you were happy with your purchase, I would greatly appreciate you taking a few minutes to write a positive review for the product. I think people often don’t realize how important an impact their voice can have — especially for a small business.
If you didn’t end up loving your purchase, please respond to this message and let me know. I can either help you troubleshoot or I can personalize your product for you (if applicable), and I can work to improve the product for future customers.
In conclusion, I sincerely hope you never have negative press. (For a good article on proactive prevention, check out Great Customer Service is a Zero Cost Strategy by Business Management Blog.) For the unfortunate though likely day that you do encounter an unhappy (and vocal) customer, I hope this article makes you feel a little more prepared. Have any questions or comments? We’d love to hear from you. Scroll down to “Leave a Reply.”
Since I’m writing this post during that unique period in between Christmas and New Year’s . . . when you have no concept of whether it’s Tuesday, Sunday, or even still December, I figured I would write about something that brings me great joy. Fonts. I am a collector of fonts. I have ones that are beautiful, ones that are classic, straightforward, jovial, and downright odd. I learned today I have 1,266 of them to be exact. Most I know I’ll never use, but hundreds of them MAY get used . . . one day. I am a font hoarder.
As a Christmas present to myself, I decided I would find a good utility for browsing my collection. When I am trying to decide on the perfect font for a project, this very common, teeny tiny, one-font-at-a-time preview is not nearly sufficient:
I went out seeking a utility similar to google’s font viewer . . . where I could type in my desired preview text and then browse the available options in an easy-to-see size and easy-to-scroll format.
If you are in the beginning stages of forming your brand, having a tool like this — to see your company name and test out body copy in all your currently installed fonts — would be a wonderful luxury. Once your brand has solidified a bit, you’ll still have instances in which you’ll need to choose a different font for a specific need . . . whether you’re creating a Happy New Year graphic for social media or a “clearance” sign for display in your store.
So I went looking for the best available font viewer. I read a number of articles reviewing the options, and I sampled a select few of them based on the reviews . . . .
CPS Font Viewer This program was my absolute favorite, checking all the essential boxes on my font viewer wish list, excepting the very important fact that my computer would freeze for about a minute every time I interacted with the program, which is designed for a 32-bit version of Windows. (I’m guessing this is an important fact.) Frustration prompted my uninstalling the program before even taking a screen shot for you, but I was able to grab one from the software provider:
If your computer is a rare gem running 32-bit Windows, this program is a great choice.
I initially really liked FontBase, performing the requisite job in a clean and modern interface. I also like that you can easily switch from your fonts to Google’s selection of 2,533 free fonts as desired. However, I really wanted to better utilize all that wasted screen space and increase the number of fonts I could peruse at a time. Unfortunately, the ability to switch from a row view to grid style, along with a number of additional options, requires an upgrade and at a pretty hefty price tag at that. Many seemingly functional buttons annoyingly transport you to this screen, where your options are $3/mo, $29/yr, or $180 forever.
Since I try to resist the low-price allure of ongoing subscriptions whenever possible, I was left with the $180 option, which was about $100 more than I was willing to spend. Goodbye, FontBase.
If you don’t mind the free row layout and can quickly learn which buttons to avoid OR you’re willing to pay for the upgrade, this program is a solid choice.
Another modern and clean interface that can also easily switch from your installed fonts to google’s free fonts, this viewer is a big step up, providing a grid layout entirely free of charge. In fact, this is the only utility I sampled that is browser-based and didn’t need to be installed. Your only required payment comes in the form of one font block dedicated to an advertisement every other screen or so – a very reasonable price to pay in my book. However, this utility scans and previews your installed fonts using Adobe Flash Player, outdated software that Adobe has announced will no longer be supported as of December 2020. I noticed a bit of a lag on the web page itself and even more inconveniently in my other software while accessing Wordmark.it. (So going back and forth from discovering a possible font option on Wordmark.it to trying out the font in my project was not a smooth flow.) Hopefully, the company will find a more current way to make this utility available, because it’s pretty slick otherwise.
This program has an old-school feel. The installation process and program interface are reminiscent of the good old days . . . Windows 97, 56k modems, and floppy disks. I almost immediately wrote the program off as a result.
Upon browsing all the options in the program’s menu, I found that the view is almost completely customizable, and I was able to scroll through my 1,000+ font options with ease.
Unlike the outdated Flash Player, this program’s age adds to its allure . . . not modern and clean but user driven and quick. I happily declare my unlikely victor!
Do you have a favorite font viewer? Let us know in the comments below. Did you have an opportunity to try out one of the reviewed options? I would love to hear your experience.