Companies both large and small often spend time and money on big customer service ideas intended to woo new clients in the door only to lose their regular customers over little service slipups. “Customer relationships are made or broken when something goes wrong,” says customer service expert Maribeth Kuzmeski, founder of Red Zone Marketing in Chicago. “If you don’t have well-developed service recovery techniques in place, you’ll lose the customer every time.”
In an age of social media, it takes only one disgruntled customer to create a disaster for a small company. The internet has greatly amplified the customer’s voice. If someone were to “go viral” with a negative story about your business, you might lose a lot more than one sale, so it pays to have a strong service recovery plan in place.
“You can absolutely keep and create loyal customers in today’s economy, but you have to have the service chops to take care of them,” says Kuzmeski. “When you do so, you can create clients for life and guarantee the success of your business.”
Here are five things you can do:
1. Learn to recognize and truly understand your customer’s situation. Provide an individual care approach for your customers. For example, someone with children will have very different concerns from a busy businessperson and vice versa. So you must train your employees to recognize these key differences and adjust their responses accordingly. “Teach service employees to understand the context of a situation and to sympathize with customers,” says Kuzmeski.
2. Deliver on what you tell the customer after a slipup. Customer service is more than reciting a tired phrase such as “someone will be right there to help you.” Be specific about how the problem will be resolved. When handling a service issue, let the customer know what’s going to happen and when. The more information customers have, the less anxious they feel.
3. Treat any second complaint like a dire emergency. Most people are fairly forgiving after one mistake—assuming you address it promptly. But when you get a second complaint, well, it’s time to go into emergency mode. At that point there’s no room for further delay or error. If you want to keep your customer, you must make sure the problem is taken care of immediately.
4. Make sure the service concept permeates from top to bottom at your business. Make it a team effort. Don’t let employees “silo” your business by approaching customer service only from the narrow perspective of their own particular job or responsibility. Make sure that everyone understands the customer service plan and that everyone knows how to work together to solve customer problems.
5. Don’t assume your customers will give you a second chance. Think about it this way: If a customer has taken the time to call you about a problem, you are already getting lucky, so you’d better take care of it fast. You don’t always get a chance to make it right. Often, customers will just move on.
“Remember that your competition is constantly trying to sell the same product cheaper, faster and better than you,” says Kuzmeski. “Don’t make it easy for them by providing inadequate customer service.”
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.