How to keep a Customer when things go wrong.

Remember how hard it was to score that customer, right? What do you do when Murphy’s Law kicks in and you now have an unhappy, or even furious, customer on your hands? How do you retain them?

Most people recognize that mistakes happen and things can and will go wrong. Your company will be judged most critically on your ability and finesse in managing these challenging situations.

Empower your customer-facing associates to follow these five simple rules, and I believe that you will find good success in turning the unhappy customer into a loyal advocate.

  1. Communicate often, maybe hourly depending on the nature of the issue. Answer and return calls promptly. Be patient and listen to them vent. The customer will often provide you with valuable clues on how they expect you to resolve the situation. Acknowledge your mistake (only if you made one), apologize sincerely for their trouble, and steer the conversation toward the plan to get their issues resolved.
  2. Only make promises that you are sure you can keep. The client is already upset, so it’s not the time to add fuel to their fire. Empathize, and don’t over promise. If you are not sure of a fix timeline, then don’t provide one with certainty. If it is an involved process to resolve their issues, then take extra time and precautions to fix it properly the first time. While you are working diligently on the resolution, always refer back to Rule Number 1.
  3. Cut out the red tape internally to avoid additional inconvenience for the customer. Be your customer’s advocate internally. Good news travels fast, and bad news travel faster. In the age of social media, industry forums, and complaint advocacy websites, even the smallest of customer issues can put your company and your personal reputation at risk for bad publicity. Enlist help from your supervisors, other departments, and co-workers and make a good case for why this customer takes priority over current work.  Avoid solutions where the customer incurs extra work or additional charges.
  4. Do something for the customer’s trouble. The accommodation doesn’t have to be extravagant or excessive. Most often your customer will feel better if you simply recognize their inconvenience. It is always reasonable to credit charges for ineffective products or services, but often a small denomination gift card is more personal, powerful, and effective.
  5. Follow-up. A few days after the dust settles, follow-up with an email and a phone call. These follow-up communications are needed to reinforce your commitment to service and will help to strengthen your customer’s perception of their value to your firm. The intention is to a convey these few things in this email and phone call:
    • A sincere apology and the accommodation provided if a credit was issued. Personal gift cards should be handled in a separate communication.
    • An explanation of what went wrong, how the issue was resolved, and why it won’t happen again in the future.
    • Thanks for their patience, trust, and continued patronage.

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