I’m a member of several online groups and one of the hottest – and most reoccurring topics are centered around disgruntled customers, and how to handle them. It’s clear that many want to keep happy customers but also encounter difficult situations and people. While we all know that customer service is important, it isn’t always the most well-constructed part of business planning. I’ve seen so many business plans that say something like: My mission is to provide excellent customer service to my customers. But what does that really mean?

Here is my top advice for dealing with customers.

Process (and procedure) is everything
If you have a business servicing customers, it’s important to set aside time to make sure you have worked through all customer-impacting scenarios, like customer returns, exchanges, satisfaction, shipping and delivery issues. Make sure you also have clear boundaries so you aren’t dealing with issues at all time of night, during personal time or via text.

Let your policies do the heavy lifting
Make sure you clearly state all your business policies. If you have a service-based business, make sure your contract spells out all relevant policies as well.

Cover your …
Make sure you have legal counsel to review your policies and a trusted advisor to turn to if you have issues or problems.

Survey current customers
Get feedback from prior customers and friends to help refine all your processes. Consider using a survey tool like SurveyMonkey to follow up with clients/customers after their purchase or project is complete.

Don’t take it personal
There are some people who will never be happy. There are some people who will try to ‘game the system’ and get something for nothing. There are some people who have no idea of business protocols or the inner working of running a busines. Don’t take it personal.

Avoid the clapback
Even when you know your customer or client is dead wrong, avoid a clapback response. You know the advice you oftern hear that say before sending a scathing response via email,  close it and then look at it later before sending? The same rule  applies to customer responses. Even if you are absolutley right, it’s just not smart to respond when you are angry.

The customer is always right- sort of
The age-old adage that the customer is always right isn’t always true. But an outcome where your customer feels valued is always preferred.

Servicing customers and clients can be one of the things that set your business apart – or destroys it. Make sure you create an actionable plan for day-to-day customer and client interactions as well as for issues and problems.