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How Not to Deal With Disgruntled Customers

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

The sad story of a chef killed over a meal raises an important issue for small business owners: How should you deal with disgruntled customers? Or more to the point, how should you not deal with them?

Japanese chef Miki Nozawa died from injuries that resulted from a fight with two customers in Germany who apparently thought their meal was poorly prepared, UPI reports. No one has yet been arrested.

As a business owner, dealing effectively with unsatisfied customers -- unpleasant as it may be -- is a crucial and necessary part of keeping your business afloat. It can also help fend off potential lawsuits.

Here are some tips you may want to consider:

  1. Never, ever physically attack your customer. The same should go for the customer in return. Unless the act is done in necessary self-defense, a fight can often lead to an assault or battery charge -- or in a worst-case scenario, death, as it did for the chef killed over a meal.
  2. Don't talk back to the customer or insult them. This can only hurt the conversation, is in bad business and professional form, and -- depending on what you say and who hears you -- could potentially lead to a slander case.
  3. Try not to take their criticism personally. Remember that as an employee or business owner, you are an agent of the business and acting on behalf of your store, or restaurant, or service. The disgruntled customer's ultimate issue is likely going to be with your business, and not you personally.
  4. At the same time, be personal with the customer. There's no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with disgruntled customers. Learn about what led them to complain and understand how this affected them personally. The more sensitive you are to this, the less you'll end up with a discrimination claim on your hands.
  5. Don't lie to remedy the situation. This may seem obvious, but it's very easy to instantly admit fault in an effort to validate a customer right away. Apologize for the situation, but not the actual problem if it's untrue or not proven yet. Intentionally or negligently falsely representing the company can lead to issues with misrepresentation and fraud.

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