Retail and service businesses invest a lot to make their customer service exceptional. With most of them now shifting to the online model — thanks to the pandemic — they’re even spending more, from search engine marketing services to various types of ads. All this they do to generate high conversion rates and revenue.
Sadly, though, despite businesses’ efforts in forming good relationships with their customers, there will always be that one person — the one the internet has named “Karen” — who will always find something to nitpick in your business and shame you for it.
These “Karens” earned fame on social media due to the retail and service workers they’ve tormented at least once. Since they’re bound to the rule, “the customer is always right,” these workers can only vent out their frustrations on social media while narrating their sour experience. The comments will then be loaded with expressions of support, along with jabs thrown to “Karen.”
Even online stores aren’t spared from rude comments and irrational complaints. Suffice to say, “Karens” have also invaded the e-commerce sector and are now spreading their wrath there.
But as always, online support staff can only respond calmly and handle the situation gracefully. In their heads, though, they’re seething with rage, much like their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
“Karens” may be a lot easier to deal with online since you’re not face-to-face and, therefore, not required to plaster a smile on your face. But that doesn’t mean they won’t ruin your day. So here’s a simple guide on how to deal with a difficult customer online:
1. Build Rapport
This may be the last thing you want to do to an ill-mannered customer, but your empathy can be the key to their calm. Take a breath before typing in your response, taking time to put yourself in their shoes and imagining where they’re coming from. Sure, they could’ve been nicer in expressing their dissatisfaction, but ignoring complaints, even rude ones, can make the rest of your customers assume that you only acknowledge good comments. Therefore, respond with an apology and words of understanding; your exchange may appear on the topmost comments, but at least people will see that rude behavior doesn’t break you.
2. Ask Feedback
Every time you deliver a product to a customer’s doorstep, send an email saying that their feedback is welcome. You may also include a note in their product, indicating where they can send their feedback. This simple gesture shows that you’re open to any review, potentially toning down an incensed customer.
3. Respond as if All Your Customers are Watching
On the Internet, there might be more people watching; only you can’t see them. Hence, choose your words carefully, noting the rapport you have to build through empathy. Respond as if you’re talking to an audience. The shift in your perspective may placate the angry customer and allow you to think more clearly as you address them. That way, when they relay their experience and your exchange to another customer, your business won’t be painted in a bad light.
4. Include As Much Information in Your Products As Possible
Unhappy customers are inherent in any business. No matter how you polish your customer service and train your staff, a “Karen” is still bound your way. To minimize their complaints, include the complete information of every product on your website. Don’t stop at the price and shipping fee. Make detailed sizes, warranties, return policies, and other relevant information visible, as well.
5. Don’t Get Personal
“Karens” can cross the line, which tempts sales associates and online support staff to fire back. According to a Target floor associate surveyed by Business Insider, the common complaints of customers are things beyond an employee’s control, such as store policies for returns or coupons, out-of-stock products, and a specific product’s price. Another Target floor associated wrote on medium.com that these “Karens” are essentially yelling at an empty cash register, except that register has feelings.
Retail workers from other companies have experienced similar situations, in which they itched to respond that they work to serve, but not as servants.
While they all have a point, firing back with such remarks will only harm your business. Besides, your support staff shouldn’t take complaints personally. When “Karens” become rude, it’s usually about the service or product per se; only they tend to attack personally, as well. Still, train your support team to handle those professionally, and let the burden of shame be carried “Karen” alone.
When you’re confident and certain that your customer service is unfailing, then there’s nothing to blame your employees for. Rude customers are just a permanent challenge in every business, so remember that you are not alone in facing them. Act with dignity and grace, then follow through with necessary action. Plus, your other customers recognize rudeness, so expect their unrelenting support when a “Karen” shames you publicly.