Right or Wrong, You're Not Going to Win the Argument With the Customer

Your profits may take a hit, but it's usually better to just refund or credit a client who feels wronged.

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By Gene Marks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Joe Jaconi's company, Tech Armor, has shipped screen protectors, cases, chargers, cables and other accessories for mobile devices to over 3 million customers around the world. Think he's ever had a customer issue or two?

"Oh yes," he tells me. "It's been known to happen."

Like this one in 2013 when a customer who bought a screen protector from Tech Armor ended up putting it on upside down and posted his story on Amazon.

Rut-roh. You know this guy is going to want his money back. What do you think Jaconi did? I'll give you the answer shortly.

Related: To Keep Buyers From Cheating on You, Always Be Loyal to Them

More importantly -- what would you do? How would you handle this problem? Your customers sometime complain, or have an unsatisfactory experience, sometimes even after a few martinis. Anyone running a business knows this. Sometimes it's their fault. Sometimes it's not. Some of them are justified. Some of them aren't. It really doesn't make a difference.

The difference between the companies that succeed and the ones that don't is how they handle their customers' problems. And the smartest business owners I meet, like Jaconi, have a policy: listen, return, track.

You always listen. You don't argue. It's not that the customer's always right. It's just that it doesn't matter. You're not going to win the argument.

The customer may be bringing up a legitimate product issue. When a client calls me to complain that one of our service people spent five hours on an issue when it should have only taken three, I just hear him out. When Jaconi's customer-service group fields a call from a disgruntled customer, they just let them vent.

"Most of the time a customer has a problem with one of our screen protectors because they didn't follow the instructions," he says.

Whatever the reason, it's important to just let them get it out of their system. We've all learned that like any good political debate, the facts really don't matter. It's how they're presented and what the response is. So what you need to do before doing anything else is just listen.

After letting a customer vent, Tech Armor's policy is to replace the product. Or as Jesse Pinkman said in an episode of Breaking Bad after some crystal meth went missing: "Dude, it's called 'breakage,' OK? Like K-Mart. S**t breaks."

Related: The Secret to Outstanding Customer Service

Look, stuff does break, and sometimes your crystal meth may go missing. It happens to the best of us. Every business person knows this. That's why there are reserves. It usually costs less money and less time to just replace a product rather than haggle over it.

When a client argues that we spent five hours instead of three, I just credit him the two hours. Done. When a customer complains about one of Jaconi's screen protectors he immediately ships a replacement. Done.

OK, so maybe your profit is hurt on that one job. But the customer gets neutralized and you've moved on to the next profitable deal.

Finally, you must track. Jaconi uses a simple help-desk tracking system where every one of his 3 million customers are entered after each transaction (call, email, shipment, etc.) is recorded. This is not difficult to do nowadays. Most good and inexpensive customer-relationship management systems (Zoho, Insightly, Nimble) can handle this. But it's critical to use one.

With this, Jaconi's service team can flag those customers that are -- well -- taking a little advantage? Like the ones that have called 10 times for a replacement. Maybe they're really just reselling his screen protectors to their friends. Or maybe they're just really dumb. The important thing is they're being tracked.

I track my clients' service calls. I know the good (99.5 percent) from the sneaky (.5 percent) ones. And for those sneaky ones I either decline future service or just charge more.

So what about the martini guy? Jaconi followed the feedback online and was quickly aware of the problem. After a long laugh, he replaced the product no questions asked. The story, and his response, went viral.

"You are hilarious and make me want a Bombay Sapphire martini," one user wrote. "And hooray for the company that responded so well. I'm definitely getting these."

Related: The 3 Things You Need to Do When You've Upset Your Customer

Gene Marks

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

President of The Marks Group

Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group PC, a ten-person technology and financial consulting firm located near Philadelphia founded in 1994.

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