Angry Patron? Cultivate An Ally

How to diffuse an angry patron.

How to diffuse an angry patron.

When you are faced with a screaming customer who is not satisfied with the service you have provided, don’t respond in kind, but use the opportunity to improve.

Marc Cosentino, co-owner of Goodfella’s Brick Oven Pizza in Staten Island, N.Y., found himself in that position, dealing with a husband who was very unhappy that Cosentino had hung up on his wife, who was treating the businessman to a tirade because she was not satisfied with his service.

Costenino did the right thing. Instead of escalating the situation with tit-for-tat jabs, he acknowledged that he had been wrong in the first instance. Then they had a level playing field to carry on a rational conversation and come to an agreement. The customer was mollified and ready to patronize the pizza parlor once again.

Joe McCullum, owner of Eagles’ Wings Business Coaching in Hamden, Conn., advises that an in-your-face irate customer really represents an opportunity to win a loyal fan for your business. He gives these tips for defusing a confrontation and turning it around:

Stay Calm

When confronting a situation, stay calm. Make eye contact with the grieved customer and ask what the problem is. You might want to take notes, a signal that you are really interested in knowing the details. Don’t rush things. This may be all it takes to set the scene for rational discussion. Most people aren’t used to having their consternation acknowledged. Don’t head for a back room to address the confrontation. That lets him or her know you are willing to face the complaint and try to work it out. Other customers may actually be impressed. The reputation will last longer than the incident.

Don’t Become Defensive

That will only escalate the irate customer’s frustration. If there is a misunderstanding, wait for a calmer moment to present your viewpoint. Acknowledging that you might be angry if you had found yourself in a similar situation may help.

Apologize

Apologize for the event and express thanks to the individual for bringing unsatisfactory service to your attention. Ask how it can be corrected and make a sincere effort to work out a solution together. Get the person’s contact information and do a follow-up to ensure that the problem was satisfactorily resolved.

Making the effort could ensure a loyal customer who is more than ever ready to bring you his business.

Are Extended Warranties Worth The Cost?

extended-warrantiesCall them extended warranties or call them service contracts. The question is: Are they worth what you pay for them? Such an arrangement provides for service and repairs beyond what is agreed to in the purchase price.

Obviously, it’s a gamble, the odds being whether the item you are considering will have problems before the contract ends so you can collect. You pay based on your expectations. The fact that manufacturers continue to offer extended warranties on their products is a clue. They aren’t losing money on the deal or they wouldn’t be doing it. Before you invest in an extended warranty, consider these facts:

The usual terms of an extended warranty offer service on the item for an additional three to four years, although they vary based on the expected life of the product. In practice, they make money for the seller, in some instances with a profit margin in excess of 200 percent. The agreement is not between you and the manufacturer, but between you and the seller.

Many extended warranties are never used. A poll taken several years ago by Angie’s List found that 61 percent of the respondents who had purchased such a warranty never used it. Actually, the chances of a product breaking during the period covered by the warranty is very small.

For instance, if you pay $200 for an extended warranty on your clothes dryer and have a repair that costs $150, the purveyor of the warranty is ahead of the game.

You might be better served to look for a product with a better initial warranty. Look into the expected life of the product. Almost everything has a range of longevity that a consumer can safely rely on. Not all brands of the same product have the same life expectancy, so you are wise to be specific. Examine consumer reports to determine which have proved to be the most trustworthy. The cost counts, too. An extended warranty with a $200 price tag obviously doesn’t make sense for a $99 camera.

Be sure that you fully understand the specifics of the extended warranty. On automobiles, for instance, it may exclude certain parts or repairs.

If you create an emergency funds category in your budget, you will have the money for repairs or replacement if needed. That takes the gamble out of it.

The four major credit cards, Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, all offer extended warranties for products you purchase with their cards. In some instances, you can add another year at no cost.

Check with your state to see if it has “applied warrant of merchantability” provisions. The laws differ from one state to another, but they establish guidelines based on the assumption that a seller owes warrantability to the buyer. The expectation is that if you use the product in a reasonable and prudent manner, it should perform as the seller presented. You should be able to return a product that doesn’t live up to expectations to the dealer for a refund or replacement. If the gentle approach doesn’t work, you may have to enlist a lawyer, but weigh the expense of legal advice against the cost of the product.

Consider the cost of your product up front. A car is a very serious investment that may justify the price of an extended warranty. An inexpensive item such as camera or phone might go into the “disposable” column.

An extended warranty may be what you need in some instances. Just be certain that you have considered all the variables.

    CEO Pay Ratio Requirement By The SEC

    sec-rulingsIt’s no secret that the top bosses in any company make more money than the workers down in the ranks. It’s expected. But the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is asking the question: Just how large should the gap be?

    The SEC commission recently voted to require public companies to disclose the differential between their chief executives’ pay and their median employee pay. The topic has been a hotly debated issue before the SEC for years, based on public concern. More than 280,000 comments have been forwarded to the agency over the past two years. The final SEC vote was 3-2, with two Republicans on the bi-partisan board voting no. Predictably, big companies have resisted the effort.

    A 2010 law opened the way to the SEC demand for disclosure. The Great Recession was impetus for the law. Objections to over-sized pay packages for some CEOs fueled the movement. Such pay inequities encouraged disastrous risk-taking opponents argued, leading to short-term gain at the expense of long-term performance.

    No one expects that disclosing the gap will lead to wholesale trimming of executive pay or significant rises in employee salaries, but the effect could be symbolic, watchdog groups say.

    More shareholder participation in voting on executive pay packages may result. Companies will be required to report the pay ratio in annual financial reports starting with Jan. 1, 2017.

    The SEC bowed to company pressures by building some leeway into the requirement. Companies will be allowed to use estimates or sampling to determine median employee pay. Up to 5 percent of offshore employees can be excluded from the median pay calculations.

    Smaller companies with less than $75 million in total shares held externally, or under $50 million in annual revenue are exempted from the new rules. Emerging growth companies and investment companies also are excused from the requirements.

    SEC Chair Mary Jo White called the measures “good and reasonable,” but business groups argue that the requirements will be costly and time-consuming. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicts that the cost to companies likely will top $700 million, many times the SEC estimate of about $73 million.

    There is little chance that workers on the low end of the totem pole will end up much better off because of the SEC regulations, but increased awareness of the scope of the gap between high and low salaries could have some effect over the years, proponents predict.

    Fraud And Liability Charges For Merchants

    EMV credit cards are being accepted at over 78,000 merchants.

    EMV credit cards are being accepted at over 78,000 merchants.

    More and more credit and debit cards containing fraud-busting chips are showing up at the point of purchase. Creditcard.com reports 78,800 merchants have installed EMV technology. That’s good news for most individuals, but have become a source of concern for small businesses that can ill afford the equipment needed to handle the new cards.

    Banks and credit card companies hail the advanced technology as a way to sharply reduce fraud opportunities. They are distributing the cards and phasing out magnetic strip cards that are easier targets for thieves. But the cost of refitting to accommodate the new chip cards is hurting small businesses. The cost can range from the low hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the required equipment. Merchants who don’t have the EMV processing equipment and then have a fraud issue could face a charge-back so big, it could put them out of business.

    The retailers are under notice that they must make the transition by Oct. 1, 2015 when the magnetic strip cards will be phased out. If they don’t comply, the credit card giants, such as MasterCard, Visa and American Express will make them liable for transactions made with phony chip cards.

    The small companies have a double whammy. They don’t have the volume of business to underwrite the costs of new equipment and they don’t qualify for the discounts that those who sell the equipment offer to larger businesses.

    A consumer sees only a small part of the payment processing system. Software in the merchant’s computer only receives the transaction information. It then goes to a processor, which posts a charge or debit to the cardholder’s account and a credit to the merchant’s account.

    Even the simplest card readers used in stores and other small businesses cost at least $100. At the outset, the readers also will be able to read magnetic strips and/or handle so-called contactless payments made with services such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet and other electronic wallet applications. More complex reading systems will run into the thousands. They manage inventory and customer/vendor information. Restaurants and businesses with multiple locations are likely to have the most complex systems and so the highest expenses.

    Besides the costs of reading equipment, many small businesses will have to hire the expertise needed to accommodate the upgraded technology. Such experts charge $100 an hour or more to install systems and ensure that they work.

    But with the growing concerns for the amount of fraud that has beleaguered retailers and their customers, the handwriting is on the wall. The expectation that the chip-embedded cards will make inroads into the problem will likely trump any other concerns. Small businesses will have to make the leap, regardless of the cost.

    3-D Printing Coming Into Its Own

    As manufacturers catch on to the technology as faster and less expensive, 3-D printing is making significant inroads in the arena, applying it to high-volume manufacturing.

    The updated methods are being used to produce a five-centimeter tall model of the Eiffel Tower, among a growing number of applications. A new additive manufacturing technology is 25 to 100 times faster than conventional 3-D printing, producing items such as parts that are stronger and less expensive to make.

    Carbon3D, a start-up company founded in 2013, developed the method.

    Continuous Liquid Interface Production — is a breakthrough technology that grows parts instead of printing them layer by layer. CLIP allows businesses to produce commercial quality parts at game-changing speeds, creating a clear path to 3D manufacturing.

    3-D printing creates an object by depositing sequential layers of material. It isn’t as fast or as low-cost as conventional processes, but it lends itself to complex objects. Companies such as Carbon3D say it is fast enough to compete with usual mass manufacturing.

    Watching a complex object rise, such as a geodesic ball, seemingly miraculously out of a layer of liquid, is convincing. The object appears continuously, rather than in discrete layers, so a finished item emerges faster. The materials are engineered to solidify when exposed to light. Under earlier 3-D processes, the laser must be turned off after each layer so more liquid can be spread out. This process slows the time to finished product and the interfaces between layers may be weak points in the finished product.

    The newer technology is related to stereolithography, with a laser tracing a pattern on liquid. The Carbon 3D researchers, who are affiliated with North Carolina State University, figured out a way to make the process continuous, with no interfaces between layers, eliminating weak spots. Key is a modification in the liquid that prevents immediate solidification when exposed to light. A thin layer of oxygen temporarily stalls the chemical reactions leading to a solid.

    Accelerated 3D printing crafts objects from a pool of material.

    Accelerated 3D printing crafts objects from a pool of material.


    The process has been proven to work with a variety of commercial plastics and the research continues on different liquids. The North Carolina group has raised more than $41 million in venture funding to continue the work.

    Predictions that 3-D printing would replace conventional manufacturing in the near future seem to be materializing faster than many would have predicted.