The world is occupied with all sorts of people, and whenever you're in business you'll come across all types of customers. Some are pleasing and a delight to do business with, but other people can be rather difficult and hard to deal with. If your business is entirely online, then handling challenging customers is a particular issue, because you're working from a distance and it can easily move into problems if your e-mails are misinterpreted.

I have been working online for the past five years and have discovered that many people are quite congenial and entertaining to work with. When I do come across the problem customer, here are a couple of things that I do to handle a challenging situation:

The customer is always right
Even though I recognize that the customer may be hotheaded and ready to blame me for an error that's not mine, I try to contain my emotions, and calmly answer every e-mail, supplying the information that the client demands. The distance of an e-mail is likely helpful in this example, because if I were face-to-face I may lose my temper or demonstrate my dissatisfaction, which would only make matters worse. So, if you get unreasonable complaints for service that are not in your contract, just unwind and try to deal with it as best as possible.

Read complaints carefully
If there’s a client who's displeased with you or your business, you can't afford to make any mistakes. Look into the complaint and be sure that you understand everything before replying. Although I say it's better to say that "the customer is always right" from the get go without even debating, in most cases the customer will as a matter of fact be right and it's critical to address the problem as best you can.

Preventive customer action
When you have a challenging customer it's better to get hold of them by telephone before they contact you. Although you can do everything by email, a customer will genuinely value it if you take the overtime to call them and explain how you're working to resolve the problem. The phone call is something that's above and beyond and will be valued by your customer. Also, a phone call permits a better kind of relationship than a mere e-mail.

Give extra service
If you have actually made an error or caused inconvenience to your customer, then it's better to compensate for it by offering some extra product or service. Your goal should be to develop as many long-term customers as you can, and it's worthy to keep up your good will with as many folks as conceivable. How you manage your customers should be considered a part of your general public relations strategy.

Be ready to offer a refund
You can minimize issues with customers by expressing from the get-go that you enforce a satisfaction-guaranteed policy, and will make refunds if anyone isn't happy with the product and/or service. Do your best to solve each problem, but if in the end you're unable to fulfill the customer, offer a refund. One would believe that a lot of dishonorable people could take advantage of such unselfishness and make unreasonable refund claims, but my finding is that many of the people I deal with are truthful and not bent on cheating me.

Pre-screen customers
If you're offering a product or service that is hard to use or implement then you may not want to have everyone as a customer. Put a form somewhere in the order process, so that the customer will get a hold of you and give you further information before completing the order. This is particularly of value if you offer complicated services such as graphic design or editing. When you get the queries you can then try for the orders that you'll be able to fulfill easily and deter those that you think are probable to end up in trouble.


Think about these ideas and try them out when you have a customer who is difficult to please.