My cell phone was dropping calls an average of five times a day after I moved to a new area that surrounded me with high rise buildings. After a few days of living with this frustration, I spent hours on the phone with my provider company, waiting for customer service reps to look up my account, transfer me to the right department and talk to their supervisor. Finally, after weeks of dealing with everything from testing my phone's software to issuing formal complaints about the poor quality of reception in my community, I reached one willing representative who offered to replace my phone at no charge. To this day, I have no idea what caused the problem and why it took so long to get my problem resolved.
Multi billion dollar corporations seem to think they can get away with mishandling customer complaints, but most businesses cannot. In fact, a recent study showed that the second most frequently stated reason a customer leaves a company is because "the company did not handle their complaints well."
Another study proves that it costs five times more to find a new customer than to keep an old one. So, it makes sense that keeping a customer happy by carefully handling complaints can actually improve your profitability. It can be a bit daunting to confront criticism; however, it can be viewed as a welcome opportunity to master the art of transforming your customer's attitude. If you can achieve this goal, you will maintain a good reputation and ensure your customer's lifelong business. If not, then you may not only suffer immediate business loss, but the effects of their verbal complaints to family and friends as well. How can you take a customer's problems and turn them into opportunities to boost your reputation? Here are some surefire ways:
1. Apologize without making excuses. Never begin by saying "Im sorry, but ..." Most customers are not interested in the internal issues that caused their problems; instead, they want an apology and a quick solution.
2. Repair the problem - quickly. Take authority of the situation and fix what's wrong. The issue can be further analyzed after the customer has been satisfied. This feedback can then be used to identify changes that need to be made in operations to satisfy changing market demands. Identifying changing needs and responding to them quickly will position you as a leader, differentiating you from your competitors.
3. Empower everyone in the organization to fix problems. Being put on hold or transferred to a supervisor is like rubbing salt in a customer's wounds. By enabling your employees to resolve issues personally, you will create higher standards for them and foster greater work ethic and responsibility.
4. Encourage complaints. Most customers don't issue formal complaints to companies, they vent to their peers in social circles. Prevent this from happening by inviting them to review your services or products before a problem arises.
5. Follow up with your customer. It's easy to make sure a customer feels good about the resolution of a problem, but most employees lack the time and discipline to do it. A phone call or handwritten note will convey a personal interest in your customer and make them feel appreciated.
Developing a corporate culture where the customer is always right may not always be easy, but it is less difficult than continually searching for new customers to replace the old ones. Instead, turn your biggest complainers into your best promoters and you will find satisfaction in your glowing reputation and, even more so, in your growing profitability.
Ryan Florio is president and CEO of Cleveland based SpecialClient.com, a Web based company that offers automated client relationship programs as a vehicle for client retention and business development. He may be reached at (216) 598-0934 or e-mail [email protected].