29Jun
By: Susan Payton June 29, 2016

An irate customer is pretty much a retailer’s worst nightmare, online and off. After all, in today’s age of online reviews and social media rants, one angry customer can have a larger negative effect than anything else. While you may not be able to fully prevent the occasional customer from being dissatisfied, how you handle the situation can greatly impact the final outcome.

The Overarching Rule for all Upset Customers

We’ll go into a few different scenarios in a moment, but first let’s focus on some basic tenets for dealing with any disgruntled customer.

There’s a reason we have the saying, “the customer is always right.”

It’s not really always true, but you should act like it is. Even if you think you’re in the right, it does no good to argue your point with someone who’s upset about an interaction with your company. What do you hope to achieve by fighting back? The customer will likely run to TrustPilot and tell everyone how unaccommodating you were about the situation, and that won’t win you any business. Whether a customer says your product was sub par, didn’t arrive, or broke, it’s easier to just agree, apologize, and rectify.

It’s best to step away from the situation if you’re feeling angry about it, cool off, then approach it professionally. Realize that this person spent money with a business, expecting it to go well, and it didn’t. Have some sympathy; we’ve all been there. Handling this customer with kid gloves, showing sympathy, and working to fix the situation may even turn it around and win you a loyal and lifelong supporter.

Now, let’s look at a few situations you might encounter through your eCommerce business and how to handle angry eCommerce customers.


“Where the BLEEP is My Order???

A customer’s order should have arrived days ago, and didn’t. Now you’re getting angry emails about it.

What to do about it

This will take some investigation on your part. Start by tracking the package. If it says that it arrived already, confirm the address with your customer. It may be a matter of her not updating her address after she moved, in which case, you’re not at fault. Still, work to get her the product as quickly as possible.

Your email template

Dear [FirstName]:I’m so sorry your product hasn’t arrived yet. While we strive to get our customers their products as quickly as possible, we are sometimes at the mercy of the good ole US Postal Service [or China Post].You can track your package here: [link]Please give it a few more days and notify us if it doesn’t arrive. In the meantime, we will be doing everything on our end to locate your package.

How to prevent this situation

While sometimes you simply are at the mercy of your shipper, make sure to take precautions to avoid as many of the “lost package” problems as possible. Always use trackable shipping, and keep that information handy in case you need to use it to find where an item is. Include that tracking info in an automated email as soon as it ships so you’re not bombarded with requests on tracking. And insure all shipped products. This will cover your liability for those that never arrive.


“Your Product Sucks. I Want My Money Back.”

Even if you think your product is amazing, some customers may not. It’s completely subjective, so, again, don’t get into a pissing match over it.

What to do about it

Apologize and refund. Don’t make a stink about it. With free and easy returns on Amazon, the entire eCommerce industry is having to bite the bullet on the costs of returns, so while it may hurt to do so, you pretty much have to.

Your email template

Dear [FirstName]:I’m so sorry our product didn’t meet your expectations. We will, of course, process your return or exchange it for another product immediately.[Instructions for processing exchanges and returns]I’d love to know: what specifically was it about the product that you didn’t like? This can help us improve our products and make customers like you happy in the future, so please consider sharing your feedback.

How to prevent this situation

That last little bit of the email is key for preventing more returns in the future. A simple survey sent to those who return products can help you see trends. Maybe the product falls apart quickly or isn’t easy to use. Once you get some feedback from customers, you need to act on it to ensure that you don’t continue to get more returns.

Since it’s your responsibility to cover return shipping expenses for faulty products, you might want to think about letting your customer keep the item and just refund the amount paid. This way you’ll save more money not paying for return shipping, and since you’re dropshipping and don’t own a warehouse, you won’t receive back products that you can’t resell.


[On Social Media] “This Company Bites!”

Handling social media rants is tricky, but not addressing them can be detrimental to your business.

What to do about it

This is one of those situations where having a cool head will help. Still, respond promptly after seeing the irate Tweet or Yelp review. First and foremost, apologize. Then get to the bottom of what happened. Take the conversation to private message so you can work out the details. Usually offering a replacement product or refund will get the job done, but if the customer’s feelings were wounded, you may need to soothe ruffled feathers a bit further.

Your social media template

Public tweet: @MadCustomer Oh no! We are so sorry you are unhappy with our products. Please DM me the details and we’ll make it right.Private message: @MadCustomer Again, our apologies. We’d like to refund you for the product and give you $25 credit to spend in our online store to make up for it.

How to prevent this situation

While you may not be able to prevent someone spreading rancor on social media, consistently monitoring mentions of your brand will at least mitigate the damage it can cause. The quicker you respond, the less negative impact an angry update can have.


“I Want to Cancel My Order” [and It’s Already Shipped]

The most frustrating thing in eCommerce is when you’ve just shipped an order and then your customer wants to cancel the order.

What to do about it

First, get to the bottom of why she wants to cancel the order when she hasn’t received it. If you use a subscription service, she may just want to be done getting orders. Sometimes you can eliminate the cancelled order just by asking questions.

If you’ve already shipped the product, the best way to handle it is as a return.

Your email template

Dear [FirstName]:We’re so sorry to hear you want to cancel your order with us. We were so eager to get your product to you that it’s already left the building.Once you receive it, send it back to us using our easy returns process and we will refund your purchase. But we hope once you receive the product that you love it so much you decide to keep it!

How to prevent this situation

Make sure your order cancellation policy is clearly listed on your website. This is your opportunity to mention that you charge a processing fee for orders cancelled after they’re shipped, or to explain the process for returning an item.

If you have a subscription service, provide a cutoff for cancelling orders prior to shipping to reduce those returns.

Angry customers are just part of doing business in the eCommerce world, unfortunately. But if you have a strategy for turning around a dissatisfied customer, you can keep her business in the future.

  • Thank you so much Susan. Not only very informative and guiding but also teaches lots of lessons. Great read.

  • Alexis

    Brilliant and SO helpful. I will definitely be using this. Thank you!

  • Hassan khan

    Very helpful .Thanks alot

  • metrivers

    Great tips! …and thanks for the templates.

  • Reshma

    Thank you so much Susan…Very helpful

  • Calvin Jansen Van Vuuren

    How do you handle customers who don’t read terms yet check the tick box. Then fight because they did not read the terms of service?

  • I’d use the modification of the “I Want to Cancel My Order” [and It’s Already Shipped] email template. Even if a customer can’t cancel an order because of the policy describes in the TCs, she/he should always be able to return/request for a refund. How do you handle these type of issues?