Every once in awhile, you'll find yourself in a position where you have to tell a customer his credit card was declined. This can be an embarrassing situation for a consumer, who may dispute the claim, try to reassure you there's money in the account, or ask you to run the card again. Handling things in a discreet manner will help the customer retain his dignity, and help your small business keep a customer.
Be low key. Don't loudly announce the credit card was declined, appear judgmental or otherwise behave in a manner that has the potential to make the customer even more uncomfortable.
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Take the customer aside, or whisper, "I'm afraid this card was declined. What other type of payment would you like to use?" This straightforward approach states the situation and presents an opportunity to resolve the problem without further incident.
Avoid arguing with a customer. If a patron becomes belligerent or insists you're the problem, remain calm and in control and don't allow the customer to rile you. Suggest the customer contact his credit card company directly to resolve the matter, and ask again what other payment method is preferred.
Maintain your professionalism throughout the encounter. Sympathize with the consumer by saying you know computer glitches can be frustrating, which indicates you believe the problem is a mistake and not reflective of the financial responsibility of the cardholder. This will help soothe the tension and make the customer feel at ease.
If the credit card of a retail customer is declined, offer to hold the merchandise for a short time while the customer goes to his bank or a cash machine to retrieve funds.
In a business like a restaurant or salon, where a product is essentially consumed before the check is presented, you should have a plan in place for handling the situation. For example, allow the customer to leave for a brief period while you retain his driver’s license or some other form of collateral to ensure he returns to pay the bill.
In a small business, chances are you know many of your customers well. In this case, you might be comfortable allowing the customer to come back at a later date to pay his bill, or offering to send an invoice by mail. This can help salvage a relationship.