Sales Tips: Dealing With Disgruntled Customers

We asked three veteran retailers: How do you deal with disgruntled customers, and overcome their objections? Here’s what they had to say.

Sales Tips: Dealing With Disgruntled Customers

Photo by John Hafner

John Landrith

A-1 Archery

Hudson, Wisconsin

I’d separate disgruntled customers into three classes. The first is someone who comes in hot, the second is slightly less aggressive, and the third is calm but has a few issues. Regardless, I do everything I can to make the customer feel comfortable. I assure them I’m going to work hard to make the situation right.

Here’s an example. A customer brings in a broken crossbow. I’m not the reason it broke, but sometimes the customer is upset with me anyway, and he’s madder than heck because he can’t go hunting. That scenario happens quite often, and many times, the customer used the crossbow incorrectly, which ultimately resulted in the dilemma.

I begin the conversation with my demeanor and tone well under control so the customer knows I’m here to help. That’s the most important thing. I also explain I didn’t make the product, and I don’t personally warranty it, but I’m the middleman between them and the manufacturer. If you don’t portray a problem-solving attitude, the situation will usually escalate. Then, you risk getting bad reviews online.

As for objections, suppose a customer is shopping for a bowsight. They found one for $40 cheaper online than what you are selling it. I tackle this conversation in two ways. I explain that, sure, they can save $40 and buy it online, but then they have to learn how to use it themselves. If they buy from us, we run them through all of the ins and outs for free. Further, if they bring in a bowsight they bought online to have it installed on their bow, I charge an installation fee.

Of course, some folks inevitably go ahead and buy online anyway.

It’s fun to sell things and keep everybody happy, but the fact is you can’t satisfy every customer. We do our best, we’re honest about why our pricing is where it is, and we go above and beyond on the customer service end of things.


Jeff and Theresa Greer

Music City Archery

Franklin, Tennessee

We don’t argue. We tell folks on the front end that we don’t haggle on prices. That basically prevents conversations from needlessly escalating. We articulate that our prices are fair and include a guarantee. That is, they get customer service with the purchase. In some cases, they pay a little more through us, but they get more, too.

We put our effort into explaining the benefits they’ll get by buying through us. If a customer has any issues with a product, we’ll stand behind the sale. For example, if a set of recurve limbs are defective, the customer can bring the defective items to us and we’ll swap it out right away. We then work with the manufacturer to get credited for it. That way, the customer doesn’t have to wait or facilitate the replacement. Not all retailers offer this level of service. We also offer free installation and guarantee everything will be set up correctly. Most customers immediately feel more comfortable after hearing those points.

Now, if a customer comes in with intentions to buy a bow and then has objections, we carefully attempt to get some bows in their hand. Once they have a bow in their hand, they’re far more likely to follow through with a purchase. If they’re just looking at it and not shooting it, it’s easier for them to walk away and think about it.

We also show our customers a few different brands and different price ranges. We want them to feel very informed after hearing our presentations. That way, they can feel more comfortable in making an educated purchasing decision. The knowledge and expertise we offer can calm most objections.

Finally, if we determine we’re working with a prospect who won’t be satisfied regardless of how far we go to meet their needs, we’ll actually suggest another archery store for them to try, although such customers are exceptions since we can satisfy most.


Justin Steinke

Butch’s Archery

Clintonville, Wisconsin

Every store has its own protocol for this. If the problem can be solved by swapping out merchandise, we do that so we can address it as quickly as possible. Some product repairs are simply out of our hands and involve the manufacturer, which takes more time. In that case, I explain to the customer that solving the problem is in the manufacturer’s hands, and I’ll do everything promptly on my end to facilitate the transaction. I also explain they’ll need to have some patience.

When it comes to pricing objections, I do my best to match prices — within reason. I’ll ask to see the price of the given product the customer found online. Often, online prices don’t show the shipping charges until the item is in the cart, so they’re just seeing the low up-front price. So, I’ll add the shipping charge to the online price and see if I can then match that price. If I can, the customer gets the product right away, and I get the sale. But you don’t always win. It’s a balance between making the sale and also making a worthwhile profit. If I can’t make a solid profit, I let them buy online.


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