Some business problems are harder to fix than others. But very few problems can be as frustrating and difficult to address as an unhappy customer. Because here in Nigeria, and just like everywhere else in the world, one unhappy and dissatisfied customer can result in many more losses for your business –remember the ‘one happy customer produces a hundred more patronage’ rule?
Addressing this issue could be a bit difficult, and that's because there's no single way to "fix" a broken customer relationship. Every situation -- and every customer -- is different. And the success of your business largely depends on your ability to listen, adapt, evolve, and rise to the challenge.
Yet there are important techniques that every small business (and even larger corporations) can use to win back unhappy or dissatisfied customers. Put these methods to work, and you'll have the tools you need to turn even the most ardent critic into a loyal -- and vocal -- repeat customer. In today's business climate, this could make the difference between success and failure for any small business.
1. Find Out What's Wrong
This seems obvious, but many business owners and their employees neglect to ask one vitally important question: "What happened?"
It's not necessary to open with an apology, mostly because you won't know what you're sorry for, and those apologies often come across as insincere anyway. Instead, open a dialogue with the customer, listen to what they're saying, and get the information you need to offer a solution. That way, you find that you are relating on the same level with the customer, and will probably get the person to open up to you more.
2. Get to the Bottom of the Problem
Once you discover why your customer is unhappy, it's time to assess who, or what, is to blame for the problem. If a miscommunication occurred, for example, you'll want to acknowledge that you or one of your employees could have done a better job of articulating a specific policy.
You may know -- or think you know -- exactly what went wrong. Yet it's also important to ask the customer how they see the problem. They'll give you a different point of view, and in the process they might show you how to come up with a better solution. You'll also open a dialogue with the customer that shows how much you value and appreciate their input.
3. Refer New Business to the Customer
If you did blow it with a customer, few things say you're indeed sorry about the past error like sending business to their door. Referring one of your own clients, old or new, to a customer (if he has his own line of business) demonstrates that you have that customer's best interests at heart. It's also a subtle way of suggesting that it's possible to move on and build a new business relationship.
4. Regulate Your Language (and Your Tone)
If you want to convince someone to give you a second chance, use language that not only persuades but also enhances your trustworthiness and real concern.
Most people, especially disgruntled ones, can spot insincerity a mile away. That's why it's important to make sure that the sincerity in your voice and body language matches the sincerity of your words.
This isn't always easy to do, especially if you're in a situation where emotions are running high. If you had a customer come in to complain about a bad product or he comes to complains of a bad service experience, then it is expected that they will vent their displeasure in any way possible, including shouting at you and/or your staff. Just remember that staying calm and being patient doesn't only calm the customer, it also calms you and helps you focus on finding a productive solution to the problem at hand.
5. Offer a Specific Plan of Action
Once you've made it clear that you understand what went wrong and why the customer is unhappy, offer a specific strategy to make things right. A good example of a company that does this is PoiseMedia Communications Ltd. Here at PoiseMedia, we do our best to go the extra mile to satisfy our clients and give them the best, and where we fall short, we give them a detailed, step-by-step strategy to right the wrong and make things better.
Vague assurances are exactly that: vague; in other words, not clearly defined. You're far more likely to win over an upset customer if you present them with specific solutions to the problem.
6. Offer an Incentive
Once you've offered a solution to the problem, sweeten the deal with a price break or some other special incentive. The "incentive" doesn't even have to involve your own products or services; a practical gift item, for example, is another option to consider.
The idea here isn't just to win back the customer's business. You're also fighting to win back their affection, loyalty, and trust, and a genuinely kind gesture can soften even the most hardened customer.
7. Empower Your Team
If you want to solve customer service issues, you've got to give your employees the power to fix problems and make things right. That's especially true when it comes to dealing with unhappy customers.
If you're the only one who can make the big decision to, say, give a customer some kind of break, you're sabotaging your own customer service efforts. Your employees are often the first people to deal with an unhappy customer, and if they can't address the issue on the spot using their own best judgment, your business might not get another chance.
8. Launch a "Win Back Customers" Campaign
Assemble your fabulous sales team and create a campaign just for previous customers, particularly ones who left disgruntled or otherwise unhappy. Conduct the campaign via social media and in print to make sure you reach everyone. Tell customers you miss them and want to do something -- whatever it takes -- to get them back.
The deals you present could involve price breaks, special incentives, product guarantees, or offers tailored specifically to address ex-customers' concerns. Whatever you do, make sure you also offer incentives to your sales team, since they'll be doing the heavy lifting on this effort.
9. Work Through the Customer's Anger
At first, an unhappy customer who hears, "What would you like us to do?" or "How can we make the situation right?" might not actually pay attention. They may be so accustomed to being ignored that they won't notice that you're working hard to engage him and find a solution.
But be persistent. If a customer requests something that is truly beyond your abilities, gently negotiate toward a middle point. Most customers will appreciate the effort, even if it takes them a few minutes to get over their initial anger -- and fear of rejection.
10. Seal the Deal
Once you win back that unhappy customer, do your best to keep them. Start out at once by expressing your appreciation, and never stop. Remind yourself from time to time why your customer became disgruntled in the first place. The last thing you want is to have to woo back an unhappy customer a second time!
As you well know by now, the lifeblood of any business is the patronage it enjoys from its customers, and if there is little or no patronage, then there is no business. So, it is expected that at this point, you are familiar with the importance of retaining your customers, past and current, and I hope this piece has done its bit to enrich your knowledge on how to win back those lost, unhappy customers. And if after all these, you still need more help, please contact us either by phone or by e-mail. Our contact is on the lower side of this website. Good luck in getting back your clients!
Business Development Manager,
PoiseMedia Communications Ltd.