How to Manage Unhappy Customers for your Shopify Store

Part of running a successful Shopify store is great customer service. As your store grows, there may be times when some customers are not satisfied with the products they received. When you have unhappy customers, it is important to understand where their expectations were not met, and keep some principles in mind to manage and create a great customer experience.

In this post, we look at five tips about customer service that can help you impress an unhappy customer, to hopefully turn them into advocates.

Manage unhappy customers: 1. Create a customer service motto

Sometimes also referred to as the “North Star”, your customer service motto is what each member of your team can look towards to shape their interactions. As an example, Ritz-Carlton has the motto – “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”

Whenever a member of the team is in doubt of how they should act, or what they should do, they can always look at the motto and see if their decision reflects this guiding principle. This can empower teams to make decisions that serve and build your brand.

Based on the motto, you can also develop the “three steps of service” that are actionable items that your team can ideally use in every single interaction.

Manage unhappy customers: 2. Use positive language

The language you use in interactions are almost as important as the resolution you provide to customer concerns. The language you use should suggest three main things:

  • that you are empathetic
  • that you take responsibility
  • that you will work towards a resolution

These three can help customers expect a positive outcome from the issue they have raised with you. This helps the customer let their guard down. They will no longer look at you as someone they need to convince of the problem, but as someone that is aligned with them to find a resolution.

Your team can use always use the brand’s voice, but adjust the tone according to each customer interaction. You can help clarify voice and tone by creating a style guide that helps your team provide consistent interactions for different customers.

Take a look at the MailChimp and Buffer guides for employees about language as examples.

Manage unhappy customers: 3. Bring objectivity to solutions

Objectivity means that you look at customer interactions as a way to serve your customers, rather than to serve your business. Those two may not always be aligned. There may be some requests or demands from your customers that your products may not meet. In such cases, a major thing that can set your customer service apart from others is to provide an objective resolution.

This can mean not only providing a full refund, but also understanding the customer’s needs and suggesting a different or a competitor’s product. You will gain a customer’s trust for recommending the most appropriate solution. Even if the customer leaves, they will leave on a positive note having had a good interaction with your brand.

Manage unhappy customers: 4. Set expectations

A lot of dissatisfaction comes from what the customer expects compared to what the customer realistically gets. This is true for products in case a provider over-promises on what the product can do. This is also true for customer service.

Different stores have different policies. Large online retailers, like Amazon, may have very flexible policies when it comes to customer service and resolutions. However, as a small-to-medium business, you may not be able to accommodate policies that are as flexible.

In such cases, it is important to be upfront about what an unhappy customer may or may not expect from the conversation. For example, if you will be accepting a return and sending a replacement internationally, be clear about what costs you will cover. If you will not be covering the shipping cost, make this clear to the customer so that there is no surprise at the end.

It is always better to lay things out and have a discussion in the beginning, rather than the customer having to come back with another unpleasant experience to discuss something that had not been mentioned.

Manage unhappy customers: 5. Avoid certain words and phrases

Just like there is language that you should be using, there are certain words and phrases that you should avoid in customer correspondence. The idea is to keep the language empathetic and centered on the customer. These words and phrases are often part of how many of us talk, so it is critical to flag these to take out of conversations with customers.

Here are a few examples of such language:

  • But: Customers may feel like anything said before the “but” is inconsequential as the point of your sentence starts after the “but”. For example, “Thanks for giving us feedback about the product, but we won’t be making any changes at this point.” The customer will probably only remember that you won’t be making any changes.

    Instead, emphasize the first part as well without using “but” – “Thanks for giving us feedback about the product. Unfortunately, at this point, we are not making any changes.”

  • Just: This can sound condescending as it makes it seem like the steps you’re suggesting should be really easy, when they may not be for some customers. “Just remove the battery from the product” vs. “Could you please remove the battery from the product?”.
  • To be honest: Your whole conversation should be honest. “To be honest” suggests that you were using some script or process to provide support, and that you are speaking your mind only after being honest.
  • Hope this helps: Or “Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with” shut down the conversation. Instead, keep yourself open to conversation as the customer may be hesitant. Something like, “What else can I help you with today?” works better.

Manage unhappy customers: Summary

It is inevitable that you will get angry and unsatisfied customers. As your store and product catalog grow, there may be things that are out of your control when it comes to operations that affect customer experience. In such cases, when the customer comes to you and your team for support, it is important to have some clear fundamentals in mind. Your entire customer service team can use these fundamentals to provide a consistent and great service.

One of the first things you can do is set a guiding motto that your team can look towards when making decisions. You can set up a guide that recommends the use of positive voice and tone, and outlines language to avoid. Sometimes, the solution to a customer’s problem may not be found in your product. In such cases, it is important to think about their problems objectively, while setting clear expectations about your products.

Are there other tips that work really well for you? Please tell us in the comments below.

We wrote about other customer service tips you can use in a previous post.


Cover Photo Credit: Dennis Skley ( CC BY-ND 2.0 license)
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Jai Sangha

Content Specialist
Jai helps ShopStorm app users earn more via their Shopify stores by writing about helpful shop tips and useful apps.

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