Mindful Customer Service: How to be a helpful human (even when customers are jerks!)

Mindful Customer Service: How to be a helpful human (even when customers are jerks!) Podcast from Product Powerhouse

This is the 150th episode of the Product Powerhouse Podcast and we are talking about dealing with customer service mindfully as a small business owner! 

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On this episode, host Erin Alexander discusses the importance of mindful customer service and how to maintain composure when dealing with difficult customers.

  • Balancing between meeting customer needs and maintaining personal boundaries for excellent customer experiences.
  • Tips for staying composed, active listening, and empathy in resolving conflicts.
  • Fostering better connections with customers through presence, focus, and a positive mindset.
  • Prioritizing self-care, having a support system, and seeking professional help when needed.

Thank you for listening! If you enjoyed this episode or any of the other 150 episodes, take a screenshot of the episode to post in your stories and tag me! And don’t forget to follow, rate and review the podcast and tell me your key takeaways!

Learn more about Erin and how I help product-based business owners at Product Powerhouse.


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Thanks for listening to another episode of the product powerhouse podcast. I'm just so grateful you were here. I know I say that every time, but I need it every time. I'm so grateful. I get to connect with you and getting your DMS about the podcast in your emails. It just seriously makes my day. I never get tired of it. 

Thank you. 

Anyways today, we're going to talk about customer service. I don't know about you, that this is like one of the dreaded parts about being an e-commerce small business owner. 

And we've all heard and probably had horror stories when it comes to customers who are just insane. For lack of a better word. They don't have a reason sometimes. And like working in customer service. For your own business can be really emotional and mentally draining. And I say for your own business, because I have worked in customer service, like in retail. 

And that's hard, in a different way, because you're just like, this is not my fault. I don't own this company. I didn't make this thing that you're buying that broke. It's not my fault, but you're taking it out on me. This one person who came here to get a paycheck. But for your own business, it can feel really personal. 

Sometimes they're attacking you. And that happened to me, last year. A person was directly attacking me as a human and calling me a scammer. And saying I ripped them off and, it was painful. 

And I will be honest that I tried a lot of these things we're going to talk about. I really did. I went through this list. As something that I just do naturally. Because of the type of person I am and the type of person I think you are. I don't think as small business owners, we are, out there trying to piss people off. 

With our returns or, policies or anything like that. But we also have to protect ourselves. But anyways, last year I did go through this. I did all the things that we're going to talk about today. And. It wasn't enough and they still continue to attack my 

Character. And, it was a very rough situation. We're not going to get into that, but I will say sometimes even when you do all the right things, I can still not have a great outcome and can still feel very personal and very rough.

Let's talk about some tips to stay mindful and sane. 

When you are dealing with the customer service support side of your business. 

 Seriously, the customer service aspect of your small business is crucial to the success of your business. If you have customers that are not happy and a lot of them, then you're going to have issues. You're not going to be able to keep running your business. So we have two as small business owners. Really, remember how important it is to make our customers happy. That doesn't mean we bend over backwards for them and it doesn't mean be like. 

Ignore our policies for them. But today we're going to talk about some tips that can help you stay level-headed. And really support your customers when they are maybe. Raging without any good reason. Number one. Practice active listening. 

Paying attention to the customer's needs and concerns while listening between the lines and really understanding. What they're saying? So why are they actually upset? So let's say they example, they received the wrong color of item. Like maybe you accidentally sent the wrong order. 

They probably just aren't upset about the color of the product. If we are thinking about that, it's not the end of the world most of the time, but, there's something underlying and it might be just they were hesitant to purchase.

I have a hard time saying that because I know if you're listening, like you're not intentionally sending people the wrong product. You're not intentionally trying to do bad things. I know that you are putting the best you can out there. Here's a good example I have ordered from target. 

Target's website. I don't live near a target. The closest target is like just over an hour away. 

And sometimes I get packages from target that have literally no packing material and the product is destroyed. Like you can rattle it because they didn't add any packing material. And other times it's just fine. 

And, if I receive an order and it's broken, it's usually not that big a deal because I understand that target is going to make it right. They're going to send me a new one. Or I can go to the store next time in town and pick up a new one. But what if that was a gift? And the reason I'm upset is because, now it might be late or it was the last one that was available or something like that. There's really some underlying reason. And if we can see our customers and understand that, like what they are really upset about then we can address those issues. We can repeat back to them their concerns. And, reply with care and compassion and understanding that goes and above and beyond what they expect. Like they expect you're going to replace the product. But when you're caring and understanding that goes a long way at getting a loyal customer, even if something did go wrong with our order. 

We also want to show empathy and compassion. And I think that really ties into the active listening and, it takes it to that next step, putting yourself in the customer's shoes for a second and thinking about what they might be feeling emotionally or mentally when the concerns rise. 

I don't know if you've ever seen the movie, the intern with Anne Hathaway and

robert DeNiro. At the very beginning of the movie there's a woman who is talking to a customer who got the wrong dress for a party or like an event and it was really important. And if she didn't get the right color quickly then it would be late or something like that. And Anne Hathaway, who is the CEO of the company takes care of it. Immediately. And that's all we're trying to do. We're just trying to show empathy and compassion and really show customers that we care about what's happening. In that it's not just about the order for us. 

Which ties into responding quickly and timely. If someone has a question or concern and you made a mistake, you have to respond quickly. 

That doesn't mean you have to be constantly working. If you have, office hours where you answer emails, that's fine. But if you don't reply, you're just going to make them mad.

This is really critical all the time. If they haven't purchased yet and you take too long to reply, they're never going to purchase. And if they have already purchased and you take too long to reply, then they're just going to be ticked and not order from you again. And you will have lost a customer who could have became a loyal customer. So it's really important to be quick and timely with your replies. 

 You also want to use positive language and reinforce at every turn of those solution that you're trying to fix the situation rather than digging further into or dwelling on the problem. It can be really tempting to explain to the customer why this isn't a big deal or why that they are wrong. But if you can just quickly move into the solution, the happier everyone's going to be with the outcome, including yourself. 

As a small business owner, even when I've dropped the ball on something, it can be really hard to want to provide an excuse. Like I had a rough month where I had a headache. My kids got sick, my computer had an issue. 

There are so many things happening and I wanted to provide all of these excuses for why I wasn't able to complete the thing at the time. 

Instead you just want to focus on the solution, how you're going to fix it instead of dwelling on all the things that went wrong. 

You will also want to be very transparent and honest, and if you don't know the answer, admit it quickly and promise to finding out the information and getting back to them. This is going to help build trust and credibility. 

 You want to be quick to offer the solutions and not excuses. Solutions are gonna help you move through the problem. And excuses are just going to focus more on the problem itself. 

You also want to take ownership for the problem and be transparent and honest, like your customer is looking for help and they want you to say. 

This is how we're going to fix it. Even if the issue is not your fault, maybe you do drop ship you don't even see their product before you get to it. It's still something that you're going to have to take care of. You still need to take ownership of the problem and treat it as if it was your own problem and commit to facilitating a solution. As the person who is taking care of customer service in this order. 

I think it's also important to be transparent and honest. But not blame anybody else for you? The situation, I accidentally made a mistake once where I said, oh yeah, I see I'm, I'm working with a new person and I didn't explain that fully. And my client at the time was like, oh so-and-so, didn't do it. And I'm like no, I it's my fault. 

I didn't mean it that way. And I was careful to never, ever. Try to move the blame for myself, which is not what I was trying to do. I just hadn't thought out what I was actually saying in the first place. As the business owner you're going to be the one taking the ownership. 

Okay, so then you want to make sure you are following up. 

Following up shows that you don't just care about getting the problem off your plate. It shows that you're really caring about the person who experienced the issue. If you had to send out a new one, maybe when you get a notification that order has been redelivered, you can reach out and say, 

Hey, Susie was this order, what you were expecting. Did you get the right one? I saw that it was dropped off today and I hope that it's exactly what you were expecting. Anything like that to just go one step beyond what they're expecting. Like they're expecting to get the product replaced. They're not expecting you to actually take time out of your day to follow up with them, to show them that you care and you want to do that. That's going to show them how important their business is to you and how important their feelings are to you. 

And you also want to show gratitude. You want to say, thank you for supporting your shop and you want to say, thank you for being patient while they wait for a new one, your gratitude is going to go a long way to show your customers appreciation, which does help build that long lasting relationship. 

 It doesn't take much for you to provide kind, human to human answers to customer service problems, but sometimes you just have to be mindful of these things going into it. And like I said, I had a bad customer service problem with one of my clients this past fall. 

And these are all things I did, I was taking ownership of the problems. I was kind, I listened, I offered up solutions. And guess what? It was never enough. There was never enough, even when I continue to give and give. And my situation's a little different, right? Because I'm not providing a product. I can't just ship another one. It was a service that I was offering and no matter what solution I gave my client at the time never was satisfied. 

And after weeks of someone personally attacking me, 

 Saying negative things about me, not just my company or my work, but of me, then I had to draw a line in the sand and that was really hard. And you will potentially experience a customer or two who just simply are rude and who you will never satisfy them. So here are some ways to set boundaries within those experiences with customers who quite frankly are just being jerks. 

One is set clear expectations about communicating your company's policies and procedures to your customer. So they know what to expect. This is why I'm always driving home the fact that you need to have your shipping policies and your return policies and like your damaged products, anything like that listed on your websites so that people you can refer back and you can say, Hey, these are the policies. 

These are what we said we would do. And we are following that in my situation. I had to say this. Is my contract that you signed saying, this and this is what you could expect from me. 

Be assertive. Being assertive does not mean you are being unnecessarily rude. When a customer crosses a boundary, you can be assertive in reminding them of those policies and guidelines that they are violating. And always use a calm and professional tone of voice and avoid defensive or aggressive comments. 

I had this client saying negative things about me saying really hurtful things about me. And never once did I say negative or hurtful things back to them? I always said I understand you're frustrated. I can, whatever. I just never went into that territory because you don't want to let that overcome you, you're never going to come back from that. 

So be assertive, stand your ground, but always be kind. Never use a aggressive tone of voice or any kind of retaliation. You can also use I statements. So I statements help to express your boundaries such as I cannot discuss this topic further, or I need to end this conversation. Now this helps to depersonalize a situation you're not blaming them or accusing the customer you're speaking to .

You're just stating the facts of what you will and will not allow. That is how I handled my bad situation. I said, I will no longer participate in this conversation. Goodbye and I no longer did. I like that was the end. You have to follow through with those boundaries. 

And then focus on yourself in these situations. Like you can not control what they're doing. You can not control what they're saying. You can not control their actions. That was very difficult. My client ended up filing a charge back with the credit card company, which costs me a lot of money, even though I eventually I did win the chargeback. It still costs me money because the chargeback was issued to my bank and money was immediately withdrawn from my account, which caused other transactions to bounce. 

And actually it was so bad that it caused my bank to think that it was fraud and they shut down my bank account. It was an intense situation. The only thing I could focus was on myself. So taking deep breaths, and focusing on self care. 

To really help calm my nerves and cope with that situation to realign the emotions and your intentions. And I would say focus on you before replying, if necessary. If you feel like if I replied to the situation, now I'm going to say something that I regret or something unprofessional. Then wait, you do not need to reply immediately. If you're dealing with a client who is just being rude. 

Wait, give yourself time to calm down, give yourself time to decompress and then go back into it with a fresh. Clear mind or even ask someone else to reply and not happened. With this client multiple times where throughout the conversation at the beginning, when she first started attacking me, 

I had written out, oh, a reply and I didn't send it. I said, I'm going to save this so tomorrow and I'm going to send it in. And then in the morning, you. I had thought through it better. And I thought, maybe she's just not understanding. So maybe if I get on a call with her, I can go through this process more clearly and help her understand. 

Instead of sending the email that was like maybe more aggressive. And defensive than I would have normally sent. If I hadn't been emotionally worked up. So if you need to take time to think about it, take time to think about it. You could even say. 

Hi, I've gotten your response and I will reply to this tomorrow or something to that effect. If you feel like too much time is going to pass and it's going to bother them. That's a perfectly acceptable situation or scenario. The other thing you can do is you can ask someone else to send an email like someone else in your business. 

Or a trusted business friend can help you write an email that is more calm and professional, then you might be able to do at that time. I have done that so many times. In situations where, you know, maybe. I am in the wrong. I do need to take care of it right away, and I need to apologize or whatever it is, but I can't do it without getting defensive. I have called my biz besties and I've said, help me write this email, help me reply to this. Or can you read this email and tell me, do I need to do this? 

And they will help you take out some of those, extra I'm sorrys or places where you're just maybe being a little too emotional in this situation. So don't be afraid to lean on other people. If you are dealing with someone who is just quite frankly, being a jerk. 

My hope is that you never have to deal with someone like that. But I also want you to be prepared in case you do, because the truth is in a business, you will deal with situations that aren't always perfect. You will have orders get lost in the mail or get broken on the way. Any number of things can happen. 

If you feel prepared and you know how to handle it going in, you're going to feel much better with the end results than you did. If you didn't prepare. 

I would say let's focus on the first part, how to provide great customer service while being. Kind, but also sticking to your boundaries. 

And then remember these other tips when you are dealing with less than ideal situations, because it is going to happen. 

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