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Strategies for dealing with difficult customers

Sometimes, our most positive shopping experiences (and your best customers) can come from potentially difficult situations and how they were handled. 

However, while you may be the very model of diplomacy and conciliation, it’s worth bearing in mind that some of your staff may not be quite so unflappable, so make sure they know how you would like them to handle any customer issues (and repeat this at regular intervals).

Train staff to handle difficult customers with a role play exercise, so that you can see how they might cope and, if necessary, correct them.

When a potentially difficult situation occurs:

  • Above all, be polite and treat the customer with respect. Think how you would like to be treated. Don’t hesitate to apologise.
  • For your own sanity, never take complaints personally, just address them swiftly and effectively.
  • Always respond to customer complaints as quickly as possible. Replacement required but you no longer have it in stock? Give an initial refund but offer to seek a replacement, if still available (and keep customers updated).
  • With indecisive customers, never show your irritation. Don’t be afraid to offer an opinion, but always back it up with a reason. Eg, ‘This one suits your colouring better/is more on trend right now/is more flattering’.
  • With any complaints, make the customer feel heard. Always end by showing them that you are taking action (stating the task and deadline). A client of ours told us how a customer brought in a branded shirt to complain about the stitching. Our client stocked this brand, but had not sold the shirt in question. He decided to take the shirt from the customer and refund his money, then took up the matter with the brand. The customer now shops with him every season and spends a significant amount of money!

Joanna Ransome, Global Fashion Management

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