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Dealing with Disappointed Customers: 6 Ways to Win Them Back
No matter how well you run your company, at some point in time someone will become unhappy. It's just the cost of doing business. It's important that you recognize when a customer is dissatisfied, but it’s even more important that you handle the situation in an effective and timely manner. Your process for assisting in and resolving customer issues will form the basis for public perception of your company and this is why it is vital to handle it correctly.
After years of advising our clients on dealing with disappointed customers, we’ve found that there are several excellent steps you can take to resolve almost any issue and start winning customers back before they even considering leaving.
1. Compassion trumps procedure.
Many companies are so wrapped up in procedure; they forget to simply be a human when dealing with disappointed customers. Compassion is crucial, and we’d argue that sincere empathy wins out over company policy nearly every time.
Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Listen. Try to understand what has made them angry or unhappy. The customer will be measuring your level of sincerity in settling their complaint. And don't think they won't be able to tell right away if your efforts are half-hearted. They can. If customers perceive they are being maneuvered in some way - or worse, that they are dealing with a company robot - then you've already lost them and the chance of winning them back is pretty small.
2. Transparency goes a long way.
Hiding your head in the sand is simply not an option when dealing with disappointed customers or a company mistake. Be honest and open about as many details as possible.
Let your customers know the pertinent facts:
• What has happened?
• What steps you're taking to correct it?
• When they can expect the issue to be resolved?
• Where they can go for help?
• Who they can contact for additional information?
3. Set an example from the top down.
Any corporate policy created will never be successful unless it begins at the top. When executives, managers and associates see that top brass believe in their policies and personally deal with customers in the same way in which they are asking associates to do, confidence is instilled in corporate leadership and positively affects the morale of the entire organization. Customers can feel it. And they will want to continue to do business with you, even if you goof.
4. Empower associates to resolve conflict.
Often, associates do not know what they are allowed to do to help the customer. Must they strictly adhere to company policy, or do they have the freedom to handle a situation how they perceive is best? Do they pass the complaint on to their supervisor? What if the supervisor is not available? This leaves the associate with no recourse when dealing with disappointed customers. It means that customer may walk away from your office, perhaps forever. Worse yet, they might tell everyone they know about their experience.
When planning your customer satisfaction policies, leave some wiggle room for frontline associates to soothe ruffled feathers before having to call in the higher-ups. This provides empowerment for the front line associates and prevents your customers from needing to make multiple contacts to correct his/her issue.
5. Address the full scope of a problem, not just isolated incidents.
If your best customers are distraught, they are likely waiting for you to acknowledge the problem and explain what you'll be doing to remedy it. They'll also want some evidence from you that you've taken steps to ensure they remain loyal to your brand. Whether this is an in-store incident, an online problem or something even bigger, be sure to acknowledge all customers who have been affected.
Even more important - examine why the issue occurred in the first place and take every step necessary to ensure the same problem does not happen twice. The only thing worse than a public mistake, is the same mistake occurring again.
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