By Dan McInnis
Director of Order Management and Sales Support, Cox Business
Your phone rings. It’s one of your customers. He was let down by an interaction he had with your company. It could be a product that failed him, or maybe one of your employees was having a bad day, but the result is the same – he’s going to take his business elsewhere. Everyone in business hears this from time to time. But what can you do to stop it? How can you keep your customers from leaving you when something goes wrong?
First, let’s look at why people are loyal to a business:
- They connect on a personal level. I once heard that if someone at a Ritz-Carlton is able to get a picture of your pet, they keep it in your records to print and display in your room whenever you check into one of their hotels. Think about the level of care that shows their guests. Can you show the same level with something like a birthday phone call or asking after a customer’s children when you chat with them? It’s not hard to show someone you care about them, so take the time to make that extra connection.
- They trust the company. Do what you say you are going to do. And keep doing it, over and over until your customers know that they can count on you.
- They get excellent service. This one seems obvious, but it’s also the most important! Take everything one step further than your customer expects to improve their experience with you. It will pay off in the end!
If you can create a loyal customer, they are less likely to leave you when things go wrong. In fact, people realize that issues will occur every so often with any company – it’s something that they expect. But that doesn’t mean you can just let it slide past and hope it doesn’t ruin your otherwise happy relationship!
Think of these issues as opportunities to strengthen your relationship with your customer:
- Fix it before they complain. I was checking out at the grocery store and the clerk noticed a tear in the packaging of a product. I hadn’t seen it and may never have, but since he did he went ahead and called for someone to bring me a new package. I was so happy with the care he took that I go out of my way to shop at that store and generally will check out in his line, even if it’s longer than others, because I trust that he’ll fix any issue he sees even if I don’t know about it. If you know that something is going wrong with a customer’s experience with your company, take the opportunity to make it right before they even have a chance to get concerned about it. Your customers will appreciate you for it.
- Own your mistakes and offer easy resolutions. I can’t say it enough – NEVER pass the buck! No one wants to hear that a mistake was someone else’s fault or a mix-up with another department. And to be honest – they don’t care. When a customer comes forward with a bad experience, make sure that whoever they are speaking to knows to apologize and accept responsibility on behalf of your organization, no matter what. Every customer-facing employee in your organization should be empowered to offer the right solutions when a customer has a bad experience, because needing to hold for a manager can make a bad situation even worse.
- Take an extra step – again! Remember when I said that providing excellent service means taking an extra step, over what your customer expects? That advice applies here, too. If someone had a bad experience, fix it for them, let them know what you are doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and then take another extra customer service step that they aren’t expecting to ensure they leave the experience with good thoughts about your company.
So start laying the groundwork now to make happy loyal customers. Then, when something happens that affects your relationship, use the tools I’ve mentioned to repair and even strengthen your customer’s connection with your organization. Your customer base will grow with happy customers who recommend you because of the service they’ve received.