What is the Best Way to Handle a Consumer Dispute?

Lori Smith
Lori Smith
Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

A consumer dispute should be handled with great care. After all, without a roster of satisfied customers and referrals, most businesses fail to thrive. This does not mean that business owners should not stand behind their products or staff members, however. Diplomacy, understanding and a willingness to resolve problems is essential when handling a consumer dispute. Even when a service provider, manufacturer, or retail store is not guilty of wrongdoing and complaints are unfounded, it is sometimes a wise investment to meet dissatisfied customers halfway on certain issues.

One of the most important habits a customer service representative or business owner should adopt when faced with a consumer dispute is to respond to concerns immediately. Sometimes, simply waiting too long to address a complaint can create a bigger problem and cause frustration for all parties involved. Most buyers understand that mistakes happen, and they can be quite patient while waiting for a resolution. Others, however, generate more of a challenge.

Some customers are especially hard to please. They may expect unrealistic resolutions, even when they have failed to comply with store policies. They might demand refunds or free merchandise when they are not necessarily entitled to it.

For example, perhaps a patron wants to return an item and obtain a refund after losing his sales receipt. The store's policy may clearly state that without a receipt, returns or exchanges are not accepted. The buyer might become annoyed at a representative who refuses to help. He then files a complaint.

Usually, the store is not obligated to give the customer what he is asking for when notices are posted that explain policies like this one. In fact, it can even be argued that offering him a refund is unfair to others who retained their receipts. The repercussions of not providing excellent customer service, even in these situations, can potentially hurt the reputation of a business and its future success.

When handling a consumer dispute such as this one, a business owner or manager needs to make a decision. On one hand, if he refunds the money as the customer requested, the company loses the profit from the initial sale. On the other hand, if the store does not come up with an amicable resolution, a minor consumer dispute may escalate into a huge ordeal that costs significantly more than accepting the return.

Irate customers often vent frustrations to friends and family. Computer savvy people may even post negative experiences on social networking sites or blogs, or file complaints with various agencies. Most of the time, a consumer dispute does not escalate to this level. When it does, however, it can create a terrible chain of events that can hurt the future success of a business.

In the scenario of the angry customer who wanted to return merchandise, a store manager may have been able to defuse the situation by addressing his concerns quickly and diplomatically. Refusing to come up with an alternate solution may anger customers more than the initial gripe. Instead, assuring the individual that his patronage is valuable, and offering to exchange the merchandise in lieu of a refund may have sufficed. In the end, even giving a buyer his money back can sometimes save a business valuable time and a lot of aggravation.

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      Businessman with a briefcase