How to Show You Care About Your Customers

One of the most impressive ways to earn repeat business is to show your customers that you truly care. That may seem difficult, but in fact, any industry can show a caring attitude and some good values to customers. It doesn’t take much at all.

And it’s worth going the extra mile to show your potential clients that you care, because you may earn a customer for life.

Have a Guarantee

Find some way to guarantee your product or service. The more you remove the risk of purchase for the client, the more comfortable they’ll feel choosing your business. A return, exchange or revision policy helps reassure customers that they’re not stuck with something they aren’t happy with.

Think that establishing a satisfaction guaranteed policy will have you swamped with returns? Think again. Most clients never take advantage of return or revision policies – they just like having the reassurance that if they aren’t happy, they could send the goods back or request a revision.

Have a Long Period of Coverage

Many people make the mistake of limiting their guarantee to a short period of time. They want to nip the possibility of a return (and loss of revenue) rather quickly.

But the problem is that a limited time offer tends to increase the sense of urgency. If you only have 10 days to examine a product and return it, you’re going to put that higher up on your mental list of priorities. After all, you don’t want to be stuck, right?

Now imagine you had a year. A whole year to examine a product you just bought for faults and potentially return it. Is it a rush? Nope. Is it urgent? Not at all. So how high up on your list of priorities is the task going to be? Heck, you might even forget!

Turn Unhappy into Happy

Alright, so you have an unhappy customer. He’s taken you up on your return policy and he’s demanding compensation. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. You can’t please everyone all the time.

Your job now is to make sure that your clients feels heard and that he senses his complaints were acknowledged. Many times, I feel better just voicing my unhappiness, even if the company I purchased from couldn’t help me.

If you can’t help a customer or do what they request, find an alternative. Can you refer them to another business that can fix their issues? Can you offer them a free repair on what they bought instead of a full exchange? Sometimes, even a discount on the next purchase goes a long way to turn negative into positive.

Prevention: Understanding Market Needs

A good way to prevent returns and exchanges is to make sure that you fully understand your target market’s needs. Some people push that they’re fast – but is that truly what their target market wants? Others push quality construction – but is that really a customer need?

If you know that what your client cares about is quality and that he places less focus on fast service, then be sure to put quality first. If you know that increased sales are more important than looking good, then focus on that.

By doing good market research and understanding exactly what your client is looking for – and what he considers a deal-breaker – you can help circumvent unhappy customers by giving them exactly what they want.

Being Honest: Truly Impressive

The days of company secrets and withholding information are long gone. People search for trustworthy businesses – they’ve heard enough horror stories and they’re gun shy now.

By being honest and upfront from the start, you actively show that you’re a trustworthy company.

Tout the benefits of what you offer, by all means, but it’s okay to be clear about what you can’t or don’t do as well. People are very accepting of honest businesses and they understand that no one is perfect.

And the best part is that you’ll feel better knowing that you convey integrity and transparency, which only helps increase your business value and client base.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Guarantees are critical – and the perfect way to put a potential customer at ease. One thing to keep in mind though (at least in the United States) is that some merchant account providers will frown on return periods longer than 60-90 days, and may even refuse to work with you if you have extended return periods (such as a year). I guess they don’t want surprises 6 months down the road?

    Dave Navarro’s last blog post..Your Pillow: The Ultimate Low-Tech Time Management Tool

  2. Thanks James, Nice information posted regarding market research services. Customer is the important part of our business and customer satisfaction will remain us in business. One of the best methods of market research available to the small business in my opinion is the customer or prospect survey. Picking up the phone and calling your best customers from time to time and put the at ease is the best way to tell them that you are caring for them.

  3. James,

    I went into a very chi-chi store the other day, with a brand new location near me (their fourth). I was dying to see what the beach-goers think is so neat about the place.

    It was intimate; the music was swanky; the staff was delightfully interested but not swarming me at all; the selection really was different. I felt ten years younger just being there. I wanted seventeen things in the place to bring the beautiful-people feeling home, and I don’t normally like that sort of thing.

    When I settled on one item, I slinked my way to the counter and made my purchase. When handing me the receipt and the bag, the salesperson pointed to a pretty little sign I hadn’t read and said, “I’d just like to remind you that our store does not allow returns. Store credit only.”

    Good feeling’s gone.

    That policy tells me that you don’t trust the quality your own products enough to stand behind them 100%, and that you don’t trust me enough to know I’d only ask for a refund if something were wrong with my little bauble.

    My other thought was, do rich beach-goers like this treatment, or is this special for the rabble who live upstate? It made me feel icky.

    Not that I don’t love my purchase; not that I didn’t fight with my daughter over who got to hold the bag because even it was oh-so-cool.

    Guarantees tell me I can trust you, and they tell me something more: that you trust me.



    Kelly’s last blog post..Are You a Manager or a Leader? Why Pushing Change Always Fails

  4. One thing I learned from my many years in a service business: often the best way to respond to unhappy customers is to ask them how they want the situation resolved. Most of the time, they actually asked for less than I was willing to give, and giving them the opportunity to say what they wanted made a big difference in how they thought about the company.

    Lillie Ammann’s last blog post..Read and Comment Day

  5. Brett Legree says:

    Late to the party, I am. I’ve run a small business on and off for a few years, building custom computers.

    I remember a quote from Warren Buffett, that sticks with me always:

    “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

    Always remember this when dealing with customers, and I think you’ll stand out from the crowd. Treat them as you would be treated.

    Brett Legree’s last blog what you love, and the underpants will follow.

  6. Some excellent advice, thank you, James! I don’t have a business (yet!) but as a customer, I wish more businesses would work on the principles of real customer care and integrity. I love the idea of turning “unhappy into happy” and you’re right, it doesn’t take much, just a genuine interest in a customer’s needs.

    Much of your advice is relevant in a personal as well as a professional arena, I think it’s really important to make people “feel heard” and to build honest and trusting relationships.

    @Brett Fantastic quote, thank you, and I agree, if we treat others as we would be treated, we can’t go far wrong!


    Dianne Murphy-Rodgers’s last blog post..Towards 2011

  7. It’s so much cheaper keeping a customer than finding a new one. And if that customer is happy with your service, even if returned, they will likely do the best kind of advertising for you . . . free recommendations.

    I’ve found in dealing with customers that customers say “Haven’t you ever heard the customers is always right?”

    Being an owner of multiple businesses I have found this to definitely not be true.

    The trick is to let them “think” they are always right. 😉 . . . usually

    John Hoff’s last blog post..A Special Offer For My Blog Readers Only

  8. Brett Legree says:


    Thanks! Well, I figure if it worked for Warren (and work it *did*), then it can work for us too…

    Brett Legree’s last blog what you love, and the underpants will follow.

  9. @ John – With 12 years in international customer service under my belt, I can sincerely say that “The Customer is Always Right” is misunderstood, misinterpreted and misused probably 90% of the time.

    It doesn’t mean that the customer *is* right. It means that the customer believes he’s right and that he must perceive that you also believe he is right.

    The resolution of the conflict, the answer, the solution… that’s just gravy for the customer to soothe the grumbling. What’s important is that the customer feels heard.

    @ Dianne – Sometimes you can’t do a damned thing to change the situation – but there is *always* something you can do to turn unhappy into happy.

    @ Brett – Reminds me of that old commercial: “And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on…” Which was bullshit, because people LOVE to talk about the bad, but only 1 in 10 will ever talk about the good.

    @ Kelly – That’s a brilliant example. I *hate* exchange only policies and won’t shop at those places (when I know about them) because to me it means that I don’ t matter. Keeping money in the client’s pocket is ALL that counts. Like you said, a guarantee conveys confidence. That’s what I want.

    @ Dave – First, dude.

    And some ignorant questions. What’s a merchant account provider? Why would someone frown on an extended guarantee?

  10. @ Lillie – Sneaky woman, I missed you. And that’s very true – Don’t tell the customer what you’ll do. Ask them what they want first. I’ve even had customers say, “Well, nothing. I don’t want you to do anything. But I do want you to know how I feel and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

  11. James,

    Yeah, I bought my bauble (too late when she told me!), but I doubt I’d go back. It just rankled me. Bad Customer Experience.

    One of my favorite stats is about resolution: a wronged customer who is happy with how his problem is handled (even if the problem isn’t actually solved!) is more likely to recommend you, more likely to shop with you again, and rates higher on customer satisfaction surveys, than a customer who never had anything go wrong at all. Don’t have the exact numbers at my fingertips right now but it’s by a pretty wide margin.

    Even if they’re not always right, they are always the guy who pays your salary. Businesses that feel put out or inconvenienced by customers mystify me.



    Kelly’s last blog post..Are You a Manager or a Leader? Why Pushing Change Always Fails

  12. Brett Legree says:


    That’s exactly right. It’s like “performance appraisal” time in a normal job. Perhaps you got a dozen “attaboys” through the year, but in the week before the performance appraisal, you were late on a memo.

    Where did all the attaboys go suddenly? :)

    Brett Legree’s last blog what you love, and the underpants will follow.

  13. @ Kelly – Oooh if you find those stats, I’d be very interested in them. I’ve heard the same as well but never seen the figures.

    @ Brett – You’d be screwed.

  14. Brett Legree says:

    @James – in a word, “yep”. It fits right in with Kelly’s post today, in a way. Be a Leader, in all things. People will notice.

    Brett Legree’s last blog what you love, and the underpants will follow.

  15. Unconditional retail love :) Taps into the most basic of needs on that pyramid. And keeps them coming back.
    Look at the Ritz Carlton Mission Statement if you want to see the most admired written statement on how to do business.
    It is firmly entrenched in their brand. And we lap it up. :)

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..For Audubon’s Birds And The Kids Of The Gulf Coast

  16. @James Yes, it’s very true (and very sad) that people are so much quicker to state a negative than a positive, in all walks of life. I wonder why that is? :o)

    Dianne Murphy-Rodgers’s last blog post..Towards 2011

  17. @ Dianne – Simple. It’s interesting, it’s more entertaining, and it makes us feel better about ourselves through various different ways.

  18. I can see this breaking down is when the seller views it as a commodity based transaction (i.e. it’s all about price).

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..Read and comment day 2008

  19. Hi James – risk reversal is so important. We have a 3 year guarantee and some people have criticised us for being too generous, but it really hasn’t cost us much at all.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Fab Quotes Of The Week: Week 3

  20. @ Mark – Who says you can’t be all about price and still show your customers they matter?

  21. Honesty: so lacking, so true. My clients sometimes start out hating me for my honesty, but they grow to love me eventually. The ones who don’t, I outsource. 😉

    Miss ya man.

    Amy’s last blog post..The Birds, The Birds

  22. @James – you can still be focused on customer satisfaction, even when dealing with a commodity, but I think it’s harder to get into that mindset. Moreover, at that level you’re often deal with mass quantities of product sold, many end consumers, and lots of middlemen. It’s just harder.

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..Read and comment day 2008

  23. Biting the Bullet is also recommended.
    Like today, I didn’t make a deadline over the weekend for a client.
    I may have spent too much time on my own blog. :-)
    I had to write the email that said…
    “I missed the timeline. It is my bad. I am sorry and working on it.”
    Or something to that effect. The idea being, we won’t always deliver perfection, well unless we are Men with Pens, :-) , but we gotta own it when we don’t.

    Anyone want to write a chapter for a book for me today? My client will love you.

    Great day everyone!

    Harmony’s last blog post..What if You Lost Your Mind?

  24. This is all so true, James! When I was waitressing, I found that a lot of people just wanted to vent. They probably had a bad day and the salty potatoes were just the straw that broke the camels back. So long as I listened, sympathized and made them feel special with a free slice of pie, I still got a tip. If only all our problems could be solved with pie….

    The thing to remember about angry customers is that they’ve all been in your position before – we’ve all been on the giving *and* the receiving ends of complaints. I think that makes us more sympathetic to the guy receiving the complaint, so long as we believe that he’s trying his best. For example, I never yell at waitresses, because I know what it is to be that waitress. I find that it’s much easier for me to deal with angry customers when I remember that they’re human, too :)

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Whoops!

  25. Mark,

    It is SO rarely all about price. Haven’t you been reading my blog?

    Target, for instance, is “all” about price. They are also all about good design for the masses, and efficient and fabulously fast Customer Service, and Vision, and clean, well-lit stores.

    I read an interview with the CEO of Target (in Fortune) where he said that in spite of the fact that their prices are typically 10–15% below the supermarket’s, they are perceived as 20% higher, because they are clean and fast and friendly and trendy. Their prices are within 1–3% of Wal-Mart’s, yet they are assumed to be more expensive than them, too. That’s why they have raving fans everywhere. Because it isn’t all about price. It’s all about the Experience (where customer satisfaction begins).


    I’m going hunting for the exact numbers right now. I’ve got a printout here somewhere.

    Until later,


    Kelly’s last blog post..Are You a Manager or a Leader? Why Pushing Change Always Fails

  26. I forget where this came from:

    “The customer is always right. They may be ignorant, stupid, unreasonable and a total pain in the ass, but they are always right”.

    In consulting related fields, it’s not usually reasonable to have a one year guarantee, but I certainly have always been willing to hand back money if someone is unhappy. Fortunately that hasn’t happened very often..

    Tony Lawrence’s last blog post..Internet Anonymity Laws – bad, bad idea by Anthony Lawrence

  27. Aaaargh!

    When you want a thing, it hides. When I find it, I will get those numbers to you.



    Kelly’s last blog post..Are You a Manager or a Leader? Why Pushing Change Always Fails

  28. Some of the stores that I have grown accustom to buying and returning if needed have clamped down on their return policy’s. I am sure it is more to do with the economic times, but when you go back to a favourite store because your use to and enjoy the customer service you get there, it is frustrating to see things change and it does make me think twice about going back.

    Stock market advice as the markets are moving

    Rob’s last blog post..Market Recap

  29. The other benefit of guarantees is how it makes you feel about your business. I give every job my best and offering a guarantee makes me feel good that I can stand behind my work and my values. Sometimes you have an unhappy customer and sometimes you have done nothing wrong but taking the Nordstrom approach works for me and gives me continued pride in the work I do.

    Karen Swim’s last blog post..Planning, Failing and Java Beans

  30. Forget about doing everything and focus on doing something.

    Also, give them a free iPod Nano with every purchase.

    Jay Francis Hunter’s last blog post..Becoming Bloghardy

  31. Luiz Lopes says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article, and all of the others in this blog. I recently started my own business and I’m in the process of writing the proposal boilerplate for it. My business partner and I have different views on the time for revision period. This article really helped me make my point in making sure the customer is not stuck with something. Thank you.


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