Turning Unhappy Customers Into Loyal Customers

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

talking-loud-phoneCustomer complaints are simply part of running a business. And while they may cause their share of headaches, those who complain are actually doing you a favour. After all, it’s easier to remain unhappy in silence - or worse, to grumble to everyone else, rather than to take the time to tell you why they are unhappy.


Complaints offer a chance for improvement

Most complaints are sparked by unmet expectations. Whether customers feel that they received sub-standard service or bought a product that didn’t perform in the way they expected, every complaint is an opportunity.

Yes, there will be “chronic complainers” who are looking for a deep discount or their money back. But if numerous customers complain about the same thing, then you have a problem that needs to be addressed. It may even be an issue you would not be aware of if your customers hadn’t brought it to your attention.

Unresolved complaints can hurt your bottom line

Good service is more than a “nice-to-have” feature. It’s critical to the success of your business. If complaints are ignored or handled poorly, they can have a detrimental effect on your bottom line. Consider these statistics from Jim Moran Institute and Lee Resources:

  • Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favour and they will do business with you again 70% of the time
  • Up to 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely manner

No business can afford not to listen to or resolve their customers’ complaints. That said, here are some tips on calming unhappy customers:

Listen to the complaint until the customer is finished

It’s necessary to hear the whole story to gain a clear understanding of the customer’s problem, and to be able to deal with it. Interrupting or becoming defensive will put up a wall that will be difficult to break down. Allow her to fully explain the issue, and listen with an open mind.

Apologize authentically and take responsibility

Avoid the standard response of “We’re sorry you’re having this problem” as it sounds canned and demeaning. Take responsibility for the issue with a simple “I’m sorry.” Try not to blame another person or department, or give excuses. Instead, offer suggestions on what you might be able to do as a next step.

When you have reached some resolution, ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” This tells the customer that you still have time for her and you’re not in a hurry to end the call.

If you must transfer your customer to someone else – explain why

Transferring an unhappy customer to another person comes across as simply passing the buck. It can give the idea that you have no authority or you don’t want to deal with the problem. If you must transfer the customer, then explain why or how this action will specifically benefit the customer. “Joe in our scheduling department will be able to send a service technician to your home tomorrow.”

Don’t delay, or hope it will go away

When you are faced with a complaint, don’t wait to act on it. An unreasonable delay only gives the customer more time to stew or to complain to others, and will compound the problem. A quick response is of great benefit to both of you.

Speak in a friendly and respectful way

Serving customers with corporate speak is condescending, and makes them feel that you’re not authentic. Use friendly and down-to-earth language.

Take the dispute away from social media

Social media provides an open forum for unhappy customers, and it’s a great channel for companies to learn about problems their customers may be having. But social media is not the best platform for resolving problems. A public back and forth conversation may fuel the fire, and can leave the discussion open to misinterpretation. Publicly acknowledge that you are aware of the customer’s dissatisfaction, and direct her to contact you through an email address or a phone number where you can effectively handle the case in a more private manner.

Try not to take it personally

If your customer is particularly agitated, you may feel like you’re under attack, but try not to take it personally. Your customer has a problem and needs a resolution. You may not be able to control how your customer is acting, but you can control your own response. Take a deep breath and repeat what you are hearing so your customer knows that she’s been heard and understood.

While handling customer complaints is not the favourite part of anyone’s job, it is a normal part of running a business. Seeing the opportunities in customer complaints and making an honest effort to resolve them will convert your customers into true advocates for your company. 

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