Here we are, at the end of the first week of December, and everyone is going Christmas crazy! Whether you are a small business trying to stay sane, or a Mum frantically searching for ideas for your kids, or an employee exhausted at the thought of the office Christmas party – it seems that although Christmas should be a time of joy and excitement, it is leaving us frazzled, impatient and completely bloody fed up.
What is it about this time of year that gets people so riled? Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves? Or each other? I don't know but I'm not seeing happiness on people's faces, I'm seeing panic.
You know what I hate about this time of year more than anything else though? It’s the rudeness. The impatience. The tutting, the frantic shoving, the ‘I’m too busy to even say thank you’. It’s completely unnecessary and to be honest, I’ve had enough.
I’ve been working with a few businesses over the last few weeks being confronted with this rudeness, as well as hearing countless stories from friends about customers from hell at this time of year. So I thought I’d try and address how to deal with it.
Ultimately, it all comes down to one simple thing.
Just be bloody kind. (Feel free to insert more extreme expletive between 'be' and 'kind' if you wish...I have, many times, but I thought I’d keep it quite mild for the time being.)
So, I’ve been doing some admin for a friend of mine who runs her own business, and this has involved answering enquiries and emails. Some of the following are genuine emails. No ‘dear xxx’, or ‘hello’, or ‘to whom it may concern’, oh no these customers haven’t got time for that.
IT’S BLOODY CHRISTMAS DON’T YOU KNOW – I’M IN A HURRY!
‘why is shipping so expensive?’
‘why are these products so expensive?’
‘why does shipping take so long – it’s crazy!’
‘do a deal for two?’
‘I need this by the weekend’
'Why does this take so long to make?'
'I know it says not available by Christmas but any chance you could make one for me by the 15th?'
No thank you, please, kind regards - nothing. These are actually messages that people send. To another person. Expecting a civil response.
Now, I know we’re all busy, I know we are all searching for that perfect gift. But it really, really takes no time at all to just be kind. Even if you don’t know the name of the person you are emailing (in this case – clue – it’s her business name. Not really that hard to figure out) then just say Hello. Just say ‘I was wondering’ or ‘would you mind’ or ‘I hope you don’t mind, but’. Seriously, it doesn’t take any time at all, and *spoiler* it may actually make the business care a little bit more about your query.
I thought I'd put together a little guide to help customers understand best practice techniques when emailing/messaging a business.
So – rules for customers when contacting a business:
Always start with a greeting – I find Hello, or Dear xxx, works well
Try to add a ‘please’ in there if you can
‘Thank you’ at the end always goes down well
Any other smiley face emojis or handclaps or ‘love your products’ adds even more joy to those reading the email
Please remember that you aren’t the only customer that that business has had an email from that day – yours isn’t the only order that needs to be sent out ASAP. Businesses at this time of year are working hard – it’s usually only one person, or if they’re lucky they have a couple of extra hands helping them – but they are busy. They are tired, they are trying their absolute best. Getting emails that are rude, and sometimes abusive, could actually be the one that makes them break. So please – just think before you send. And please be kind.
(disclaimer - I know there are loads and loads of lovely customers who are happy, kind and so very friendly, and you make us smile every time you get in touch - this post is just a reaction to those on the other end of the scale who are popping up more and more unfortunately...)
If you are on the receiving end of those emails, it takes a HELL of a lot of willpower not to answer back in a, how shall I put it, unprofessional manner. Oh, we’ve laughed at some of the responses we could have been sending out, but of course, we would never do that – would we?!
I get it is hard, I get you are working your socks off, and I get that after a long week – one of those emails really does become the straw and it is oh so easy to react. When you get a customer who just won't let it go. But let’s just take a minute.
And just walk away.
Let’s maybe come back to that one tomorrow.
As soon as you reply - that response is gone, it is out there – your reaction, however restrained you think you have been, it’s still out there, and once it’s gone you can’t do anything about it. Better to sit on it and compose a message that reflects more what you would say if you weren’t exhausted, living on 4 hours sleep over a week and having eaten nothing but stollen for the last 48 hours.
Is it a customer complaint?
Is the product they have received faulty or not what they were expecting?
Is it late?
What is the issue?
Let’s have a look and see what we can do to resolve it. Yes, they may be rude, and yes, they may have been the last straw after a hell hole of a week – but you don’t know what’s going on with them.
No-one knows what’s going on behind the scenes, whether they are leaving to go visit their daughter in Spain and wanted to take the present with them, whether the gift is for a friend who is ill and this is more than likely going to be their last Christmas, whether they are really struggling with finances and would do anything to save a bit of money to get their child exactly what they want on Christmas day.
Now I know that may sound a little corny, but sometimes an email is sent in such panic or haste, that it wasn’t in the way they wished it. So let’s just be kind.
If it is a complaint, don’t worry.
The way you now handle it can really turn it around for you. Did you know that 71.5% of positive customer service experiences that people share in person or on social media began as negative experiences.*
Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favour and they will do business again with you 70% of the time.*
It’s so much easier (and cheaper) to retain the audience that you do have rather than find a new one – so turn it around for them, go above and beyond, and you will have an incredibly loyal customer on your hands. And on average, loyal customers are worth 10 times their first purchase.*
So – rules for businesses when responding to customers:
Always start with a greeting – I find Hello, or Dear xxx, works well.
Try to add a ‘please’ in there if you can.
‘Thank you’ at the end always goes down well.
Acknowledge their issue/complaint/enquiry – you don’t have to admit blame however, depending on situation.
Is there any way you can amend or fix their problem? If so, offer a solution. If not, apologise and explain it is out of your hands. Explain why.
Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to their face.
Don’t be rude or hasty.
Don’t get aggressive, despite how rude or aggressive they are.
Delegate if need be, if you are too close to the situation.
Always remember that you don’t know the whole story – or what is going on behind the scenes.
Don’t get me wrong – I get as angry as you at rude people. There’s really nothing worse. People can be really mean. But don’t come down to their level. Don't be like them. Shower them with kindness and walk away.
Then go rant, scream and swear at your best friend or partner, and drink copious amounts of gin.
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