How to satisfy unhappy customers
No business can work like a perfectly oiled machinery where the goods supplied are impeccable and the services offered are top notch. An ideal business is one that has all customers happily living and loyally patronizing the business/ brand all the time! But that is unearthly. In any business, despite all the policies, practices, vigilance and efforts, there will be slips in product quality, a short supply here and a wrong supply there; a goof-up by a service technician here and a fiery help-desk woman arguing with a customer there!
While it is not easy to keep all the customers happy all the time, the goal of any good businessman is to keep a sizable majority of customers happy; only through this happiness, the business can sustain in the long run.
Here are some practical tips to please unhappy customers:
Allow the customer to be heard at a higher level
If a customer has a problem and the problem has not been amicably settled by the personnel at the operating level, most customers would like to meet “the boss who matters”, who can resolve the issue to their satisfaction. Standing instructions must be given to the personnel at the operating level that they should never thwart the customer from accessing their higher-ups; any customer dispute that creates a rise of tempers must me assiduously watched by the boss and he should intervene promptly and his bias should be more favorably tilted to assuage the feelings of the customer.
Listen first and listen thoroughly
One thing any unhappy customer wants is a good listening. This is one area where majority of customer service personnel can potentially fail. The moment an irate customer’s foul mood is sensed, the customer support personnel normally go on a defensive ploy and start giving replies or objections or justification of their stand to the customer, without giving a full ear to their complaints.
Give the customer an opportunity to vent out his grievances and complaints fully; ask questions for getting clarity; make a written note wherever needed; by your facial expression and demeanor, create an atmosphere that you are going to resolve the customer’s problem in all seriousness.
Three out of four occasions, this patient listening by itself will bring down the customer’s temper. He will then be more balance-minded to receive your response.
Do not stick to “legally right” stand always
When there is a customer complaint, there will always be a “legally right” stand which may have a contradiction with a morally right stand. Take for example a product supplied by you to a customer has been facing repeated service complaints during the warranty period, jeopardizing the customer from optimally utilizing it. If the equipment breaks down crucially on a day a week after the official warranty period ends, you may be legally right in not offering a “free warranty service”; but considering the past history, you can go out of the way to offer a free service to the customer and this gesture will go a long way in making the customer happy.
Be prepared to lose
Let us consider the case of a digital camera bought by a customer, that developed serious snags during the fag end of the warranty period; the service technicians could not resolve the problem and a free replacement was the only way. Unfortunately, the camera’s specific model was no longer under production and the specific snag was one of the oft repeated complaints in the model. Any free replacement from the unsold stock has a potential to for the problem to recur, but the advantage for the camera manufacturer was that the warranty (for the original camera) would end and for the replaced product, there won’t be an extended warranty as per terms.
But the camera manufacturer took a decision to replace the malfunctioning camera with their next tier, updated and costlier model. This way, the company lost, but they gained the goodwill of the customer in the long run.
The above is a real life example that actually took place. It must be remembered here that the short term loss is really a long term gain, because the customer is sure to spread the word about this happening and is most likely to recommend the brand to other potential buyers within his circle.
Go that extra mile
Once a customer was standing at the reception counter of a 5-star hotel, irritably arguing with the receptionist there. His complaint was that he had booked the room well in advance, but the receptionist had asked him to sit and wait for a while, which was not to his liking. The lobby manager intervened immediately; he came and introduced himself to the customer pleasantly, took him to the Coffee Shop and ordered some pastries and ice-cream; he was pleasantly involving in a conversation with the customer; he was showing all curiosity to know about the customer's business, purpose of visit to the city, about his food tastes and so on. Half an hour went by this way with the customer joyfully enjoying the sweet and the conversation with the curious listener.
When they returned to the lobby, the room meant for him was ready (that had just got vacated by the previous occupant and cleaned) and he could go and occupy it, fully satisfied!
It is the "extra mile" run by the Lobby Manager that could turn an irate customer to a happy and satisfied one.
“The customer is always right” is a phrase coined to stress the importance of good customer service. Pleasing unhappy customers with the right approach and strategy will always make the business stand on a firm footing in the long run.