When something bad happens, the subsequent interactions one has when resolving that unpleasant thing can either make it better or even worse. When you find things like kindness, understanding, helpfulness and “go beyond” attitudes during the ensuing encounters you have, it can create loyalty, positive referrals and appreciation that’s stronger than nearly any other customer interaction can produce.
One of the most important elements in turning a bad situation into an opportunity to win a customer for life is the level of service a company provides. First, how easy does a business make it for customers to interact with them? Are customers handed off to five different people, forcing them to repeat their story and information every time before they reach someone who might be able to help? Do they have to complete pointless forms that are nothing more than busywork? Are they able to talk with someone in real time, or does the business only accept emails or voicemails?
Next, it’s important to make the experience personal for every customer. What happened to them is personal, so they don’t want to be treated like just another number in a sea of others with similar problems. Nor should they be treated like a petulant child who’s complaining that their toy broke. No one likes being herded from place to place or person to person like cattle. A personal touch and some empathy can go a long way in turning a bad situation into a good one.
Companies make and break loyal customers every day based on whether or not they live up to their word. There’s something to be said for promising and delivering. Forget about under-promising and over-delivering. Promise and deliver. Do what you say you’re going to do. Customers want to believe in the company they’re doing business with, whether it’s promising something will be fixed by a certain date or that a full refund will be provided on a product. When a promise isn’t kept, it damages the customer relationship—sometimes beyond repair. But when a company consistently follows through on its word, it strengthens customer loyalty by leaps and bounds.
When something happens to a product or service a customer uses often, he or she wants it rectified as soon as possible. Fix whatever is broken. That’s what they expect. That’s what they want. But what about the company that goes beyond just fixing the thing that’s broken? Maybe it’s taking an extra step to ensure a customer is comfortable and has what he or she needs until the thing or service is fixed. Maybe it’s calling to give the customer an update on where things stand with a repair. We all know that in the absence of information, our natural tendency is to fill the void with negativity. Companies can avoid the void by communicating consistently with customers so they understand when their product or service will be repaired.
Another way companies can go beyond during a difficult customer situation is to determine if the problem resulted in other problems the customer may need assistance with fixing. For example, if someone’s basement floods due to a faulty sump pump, does the plumbing company merely send a service person to fix the sump pump, or does it ask the customer if he or she would like them to contact a water damage restoration company to clean up the mess?
The Customer Contact Leadership Council conducted a study of the customer service interactions of over 75,000 people. The study revealed that companies are more likely to create loyal customers by helping them solve problems efficiently and simply rather than “delighting” them with unexpected, extravagant service. It also found that customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction as a disloyal customer than a loyal customer. That signifies there’s a lot of room to grow in the area of helping customers solve their problems.
It seems like common sense that all companies would want to follow, but believe it or not, there are many out there that fail to use a difficult customer situation to build loyalty. Compassion, communication, following through and going beyond are all great ways to help a customer move beyond a bad experience and at the same time earn their loyalty for life.