It happens to every company: An unhappy customer cancels a purchase and then shares the story widely across social media or on review sites. The damage can be immediate unless you are able to find a solution quickly.
Business Insider’s Customer Service Report found that 60 percent of U.S. consumers have abandoned a purchase after having a poor customer service experience, costing businesses an estimated $83 billion.
Sure, the best bet is to keep the customer happy in the first place, but we all realize that sometimes things happen. “You may not always be able to control a delayed shipment, faulty product or even a bad customer reaction to your business policy, but you can control the responsiveness of your customer service, the department’s empathy and its ability to go the extra mile to fix a problem,” says Ron Bongo, CEO of digital agency Corra, which conducted a survey on the damage negative reviews can do.
Here are seven ways to turn an unhappy customer into a delighted one.
1. Find out what went wrong
Sometimes the customer just wants to tell their tale of woe to a sympathetic, listening ear, so let them vent away. It’s important not to get defensive or make excuses. Instead, listen carefully and then repeat their issue back to them so they feel heard — and understood.
2. Be apologetic
Two little words that make a huge impact: “I’m sorry.” Not “I’m sorry you’re upset,” or “Sounds like mistakes were made,” or other #SorryNotSorry fake apologies. A simple, straightforward apology is sometimes all it takes to change the tenor of the conversation. “An apology isn’t a confession of culpability. It’s a statement of compassion,” points out consumer advocate Ron Burley.
3. Make the situation right
One of your salespeople missed an appointment and the customer is hopping mad? Offer to send someone else out at their convenience and don’t charge for the service call.
The shipment didn’t go out on time? Drive it across town yourself if you can — and bring coffee for the office while you’re at it. The dinner reservation was inadvertently canceled? Give them the next available table and send free appetizers.
The point is that you should do whatever you can to go above and beyond to make the situation right — even if it initially costs you money.
4. Address negative reviews
Ignore online reviews at your peril: Almost 90 percent of customers say they have been influenced by reviews. Instead, respond with tact and grace — even if your initial reviewer was rude or out of line. By genuinely apologizing and offering to resolve the situation, you not only potentially appease that customer, but you show everyone else reading the review that you went the extra mile to try to resolve the situation. An unanswered negative review will lead readers to wonder if you just don’t care.
5. Make sure your team is equipped to help
As a small business owner, your involvement can carry substantial weight, but you also want to train your entire team to respond and fix negative experiences. Since they are on the frontlines, their ability to defuse the situation immediately can ensure it doesn’t fester and grow. Ask them to keep you apprised of any customer issues, however, so that you can reach out after the fact as appropriate.
6. Change policies if needed
If you get repeat complaints about the same process, department or even employee, then you might need to make some changes. Although it may only be a few complaints, you can be relatively certain that many more customers are turned off or annoyed by the same issue, and just haven’t bothered to make their voices heard.
7. Remember the end goal
The end game is a delighted customer. A repeat customer. Maybe even a brand advocate. Many customers who’ve had a problem solved are liable to become even more loyal and raving fans than even those who were satisfied all along. And that’s the story that they are going to tell their friends and associates. Score one for great, responsive customer service!