It doesn’t always work out. You have provided your customer with a number of merchandising offers and pricing options that seem favorable and fair. But no matter what you feel is a great offer, there are times when a customer wants to just return your product. There are other customers that will have a complaint about delays in shipping or product appropriateness.

No matter how clear your return policy is defined on your website, customers feel that they should return it with a complete refund. No questions asked. The mega retailers have created this no-haggle return policy, because they have other avenues to resell these items; namely, through their discount outlets. But for the small boutique online retailer, who employs a drop-shipper, returns are usually charged a restocking fee. That fee is borne by the online retailer. It is then understandable and reasonable that a customer re-stocking fee is necessary to recover some or all of the re-stocking and credit card costs that you bear as the retailer on the initial customer purchase transaction.

When you are in the Customer Business, inevitably, you will be required to address a Customer Problem Situation. So how do you respond to these unavoidable yet regrettable customer problem situations? What is the best way to respond in writing to these customers?

These Eight time-tested tips have helped me apply effective responses to Customer Problem Situations over and over again:

1) Write your response as if your words will ultimately be posted on the internet. It could appear, in whole or in part, on someone’s BLOG, visible to all the web world to read and discuss. Remember problem situations are opportunities to further market your company’s trusted image and extend customer goodwill.

2) These emails or letters addressing problem situations should never tell the customer what they did wrong; instead, tell your customer exactly what they need to do to make the situation right. Detail the steps the customer must execute to realize the solution. This “BE POSITIVE” approach was applied many times over the 30 years when I was a software support manager for both Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

3) Use your written word to further develop and grow your trust with your customer. “Active Listening” applies to the written word as much as it applies to conversation. First strive to understand, confirm that understanding and then proceed to a proposed solution.

4) Be fair in your solution proposal, but don’t “give away the farm” as part of your problem resolution. Think Win-Win. Ask yourself the question: With what you are offering as a solution, is this likely to keep this customer as a repeat customer?

5) Break your ‘fix-it’ offer into two parts, a current fix and a future buy offer. Apply some common sense toward fixing the present situation (partial refund, item exchange or return). Then entice the customer to come back and buy again with an offer against future purchases (like an additional 5% discount or free shipping).

6) For a product replacement situation, this could be an opportunity to “sell up” your customer to a better product or service.

7) Have a clearly defined Returns Policy Page on your website. Don’t hide the fact that you charge a re-stocking fee. Always be transparent with your Return Policy, Shipping Information and Privacy Policy. Nothing hidden in these areas but rather openly disclosed will build customer trust in your website and company.

8) Accept that there will be times when you will lose the customer. Forever! Sometimes it just doesn’t work and you will not be able to save a customer. Be gracious in your closure – “We had hoped we could make this mutually beneficial offer work ” and then Let it go. No guilt – No Regret.

In your journey to continuously maintain high customer satisfaction, you will discover that “All Customers ARE NOT Created Equal” and “The Customer IS NOT always right”. Both the Seller and the Consumer have responsibilities toward ensuring the sales transaction is mutually beneficial. Encourage your customers to ask questions and get answers before they buy. Strive for a Win-Win sales experience.