Online selling is not a walk in the park. Just like any other business, it has its shares of challenges and one of those challenges is customer conflict. It can be stressful and it can also be a great learning experience depending on how you want to take it. In this article, I’m going to share with you guys how to avoid customer conflict.
If you have been following my blog, you’ll know that I have been in the online selling business for a few years now. I sell second-hand clothes, bags, shoes, and accessories, and sometimes, I also sell some thrifted art pieces and other homewares.
Every now and then, I do encounter challenging customers and I try my best to avoid having conflict with my customers because I don’t find it productive for both parties because it can be emotionally draining sometimes. And I’m going to share below some tips on how you could minimize and avoid having conflicts with your customers.
Let’s start, shall we?
Set the Right Expectation at the Onset
One of the reasons for any customer conflict is unmet expectations. For example, if you mentioned on your listing that the item that you’re selling is as good as new, then the customer will expect something that is really almost new. There should be no fluffs, no blemishes, and not even very small stains.
This is the reason why I take my time in measuring and in describing my items as accurately as possible. Please bear in mind that it’s a ‘subjective world’ out there. Different people have varying perceptions of what ‘good as new’ is. And the safest way to way to say it is ‘good used condition’ because technically if you’re selling a second-hand item like I am then it is ‘used’.
Also mention in your description if there are any flaws such as small stains, tears, or holes. Some people are ok with it (especially with used denim jeans) as long as they’re well-informed during the sales transaction.
Listen to Your Customer Before You Respond
In my experience, customers also want to avoid conflict as much as possible with sellers because, as I’ve said earlier, it can be an emotionally draining experience for both parties.
When you receive a complaint, it doesn’t have to escalate to conflict. Complaints do not automatically mean you will be both engaged in a conflict. When customers complain, most of the time, they’re just voicing out their opinion about the product that they paid for, and usually, they’re unsatisfied with the product and the services that they got from your online shop.
The first thing that you need to do before you respond is to listen to the customer or if you have received the complaints via the messaging app, to read the complaint over and over again until you get a full understanding of what it’s all about.
Do Not Respond Right Away if You Get Emotional
Sometimes we get emotional when we receive a complaint because it might have hurt our ego a bit. It still happens to me even now. Although I seldom get a complaint, whenever I get one, and especially if the complaint is valid, I feel that sometimes, I failed in what I do. I failed to check the item carefully and have shipped it with some undisclosed flaws.
When you’re posting a lot of clothes on a weekly basis without any help, you’re bound to make a mistake along the way.
However, it’s not an excuse though (especially in the eyes of customers) because it’s our job as online sellers to check all the items that we are selling prior to shipping them.
So when you get a bit emotional, take a breather and respond once you’re ready within an acceptable timeframe. This leads me to the next item…
Respond in a Timely Manner
I’ve worked in the customer service industry before and we get tons of complaints on a daily basis. And one of the best things that I’ve learned in dealing with complaints is to respond in a timely manner.
A timely manner doesn’t need to be immediate depending on the situation. But in my previous experience, I always respond within an hour or within the day if I get the message while I’m out doing some errands.
If I’m out doing some errands, I usually respond with a message saying –
“Hi. Thanks for contacting m and for informing me about this situation. I’m out on an errand and I will get back to you as soon as I get home.”
Customers do understand that a lot of online sellers nowadays are not doing this full-time and even if some online sellers are doing this full-time, sellers also have other activities in life that they have to attend to.
Choose Your Words Carefully
When responding to a complaining customer, always choose your words carefully. Remember that communicating via messaging app is more prone to misunderstanding because, unlike a normal face-to-face conversation, the customer does not hear the tone of your voice.
Having said that, choose polite and neutral words and avoid using strong words that might be perceived negatively by the customer.
Focus on Resolving the Customer Concern
When responding to a customer, always focus on resolving the issue. At the end of the day, they contacted you because they want the issue resolved. And this is also a great opportunity to dodge a negative comment on the online selling platform.
Understand what the customer wants – do they want a full/partial refund, a replacement, or are they just informing you about the item that they have received?
Upon understanding what the issue is, then decide which resolution is fair for both parties and then propose the resolution to the complaining customer.
Aim for a Proper Closure
If the customer accepts your resolution proposal, keep your word and provide the resolution that you have both agreed upon. Thank the customer before you end the conversation and that’s it.
If the customer did not accept your resolution proposal, usually, the customer will verbalize what they want. You can negotiate if it’s something beyond what you can provide. But in my case, since I’m only selling second-hand items which are usually affordable and low-cost, the usual end resolution is a replacement or a full refund.
Move On But Don’t Forget the Lessons Learned
After dealing with and resolving a customer’s complaint, move on and forget all the emotions that you’ve gone through but don’t forget the lessons learned.
A customer complaint, most of the time, is a great opportunity to learn and to be better in online selling.
Bonus Tip: Under-Promise and Over-Deliver
Depending on the type of your business, this can be very easy to achieve without costing you that much money.
What I usually do is I always ship all orders with a freebie and I always ship the items ahead of time. If my scheduled trip to our local courier is every Saturday, I always try my best to bring the item to the courier a day or two earlier as long as I’m free.
A customer complaint doesn’t have to escalate to customer conflict if you play your cards right. Always think of your customers as one of the most important parts of your online selling business.
Online selling is not a get-rich-quick scheme and it entails a lot of hard work and a lot of continuous improvement. Always remember that the core of online selling is your customers. Without your customers, there will be no business. So, always put your customer first and always put yourself in their shoes and you will definitely do great in online selling.How to Avoid Customer Conflict in Online Selling Click To Tweet
Do you have any additional tips to share on how to avoid customer conflict in online selling? Feel free to share them in the comment section below.