How to Retain Customers When You Discover a Problem

How to retain customers when you discover a problem with your product or service is important because it sets the tone for the customer relationship.Even the best products and services occasion­ally have prob­lems. When they do, you should look upon the situation as an opportu­nity to earn customer confidence. Why? For two good rea­sons:how to retain customers

  • Some customers never know how good a product or service is until they experience a problem.
  • Solving that problem can strengthen the relationship by physically and emotionally demonstrating your concern, integrity and commitment.

If you discover a problem, you have two op­tions:

1.  Hope the customer doesn’t discover it.

2.  Bring the problem and a solution to the customer’s attention.

Taking the first option is like hiding your new golf clubs in the basement or standing in front of the big dent in the car: eventually, someone will find out. Eventually, your customer will discover the problem. The cover-up may only worsen matters because customers will not only question the quality of your product but your integrity as well. The second approach is not without its risks, but the potential reward of a satisfied customer is generally worth the draw­backs. Learning how to retain customers when this situation arises is a “moment of truth” that ultimately will shape the customer experience you deliver.

The inherent risks of bringing a problem to the customer’s attention can be eliminated or mini­mized by these factors:

  • Your presentation manner. Are you able to connect with the customer on an emotional level?
  • Quality of the solution. Does your solution address the customer does stated and implied concerns?
  • Effectiveness of the implementation. Do you deliver what you promise?
  • Follow-through. Do you confirm that the customer’s concerns were met?

In a technology-driven  business environment it’s easy to use email, voice mail etc to deliver your message. Don’t fall into that trap. Retaining customers is your goal so it’s important to address product problems with a personal touch. This means connecting personally with the customer whenever and wherever possible.To effectively handle this type of moment of truth take the follow­ing steps:

  • Explain the problem. Avoid trying to fix blame. Accept personal responsibility.
  • Acknowledge and listen to the customer’s concerns. Listening to and observing the custom­er’s “words and music” will help you gauge how to present your solution.
  • Address the problem with a course of action.  Your solution should address the cause of the problem as well as your cust­omer’s concerns.
  • Maintain the customer’s confidence in the product or service. This is usually accom­plished after you have imple­ment­ed the solution to the customer’s satisfaction. It requires conscientious fol­low-up on your part.

Problems will occur with your products and services. How you retain customers when they do should be an integral part of how you conduct business. Be pro-active and keep the customer’s needs and emotions in mind when you respond. Your actions will help define the quality of the customer experience as well as the longevity of the customer relationship.

Want to learn how your customer relationship strategies stack up? Take the Grow Positioning Survey now.

 

How to Retain Customers When They Complain

how to retain customersEvery successful business must learn how to retain customers when they’re unhappy because your product or service failed their expectations. In business customers complain every day. Whenever an airline flight is canceled, a package lost, a meal served cold, a product delivered without all its parts, or a deadline missed, customers are apt to complain. When problems like these occur, the customer is rarely angered by the mistake itself. In most cases, it is the way the problem is handled that makes or breaks the customer relationships. There are two basic approaches for handling complaints: the compa­ny-focused approach and the customer-focused approach.

Company-Focused. This approach has employees justify the company’s position and defend why the mistake happened.  It usually involves the following:

  • Proving you are right and the customer is wrong
  • Showing it is the customer’s fault, not yours
  • Avoiding personal responsibility
  • Telling the customer you can’t or won’t do anything

Taking this approach makes customers feel they have to “jump through hoops” to get rectified what should not have happened in the first place.

Customer-Focused. This approach attempts to make complaints “hassle-free.”  This means providing quick, effective, hassle-free recovery to the customer; you take the heat, not the customer. It also means that if you are ever going to recover, you must get the full benefit of recov­ery. Use recovery as a positive strategy.  Ensure that customer issues get the type of responsive­ness that will turn unpleasant expe­ri­ences into positive ones. Keep in mind that 92% of customers who leave because of poor service would return if they receive an apology, a discount or proof that service has improved.

How to retain customers when they complain is an essential “Moment of Truth”  in the customer relationship. Handle it poorly and you not only lose a customer but the potential customers who are told about the poor service experience. Handle the complaint well and you can not only salvage the relationship but solidify as well.  To handle it well and maintain the relationship make sure that you follow these steps:

  • Say you are sorry.
  • Listen emphatically to the customer’s con­cerns.
  • Hear him or her out. Let the cus­tom­er vent emotions. Circumventing or minimiz­ing the importance of emotion only invites com­plications. Letting off steam may be the beginning of a rational discus­sion.
  • Clarify the problem. Use your questioning skills to properly define the nature and cause of the problem.
  • Take total responsibility for “making it right.”
  • Solve the problem without blaming some­one else. Address the problem with an appropri­ate course of action. Offer a solu­tion based on the nature of the problem and your comp­any’s ability to rectify it. Be careful not to over-promise what you can do to correct the situation. If you drop the ball again, you may not get another chance to carry it.
  • Regain customer confidence in the product or service. This can only be done with ac­tions not empty words and promises. When the solution is implemented, make sure that the customer is satisfied and sees the value of your company’s efforts.

Customers have many options in the New Economy. Drop the ball on them and most will just leave without saying a word. When customers do complain its an opportunity to learn new ways of how to retain customers. View complaints as specific suggestions of how to expand on how you satisfy or exceed your customers expectations.

Complaints will happen. How you handle each one will be your signature for managing the customer experience.

To discover ways in which you can improve your customers’ experience take the Growth Positioning Survey.