There are two kinds of salespeople. The most typical salesperson views complaints as a disease to be avoided and any memory of the pain rapidly suppressed. The second views the complaint as a luscious opportunity.
In all businesses everywhere, equipment breaks and mistakes are made. It’s not usually the salesperson’s fault, anymore than it’s the customer’s fault. It’s probably true that about thirty percent of all problems with products are indeed the customer’s fault, but this is absolutely and definitely not a blame game. The point is, sooner or later, something will go wrong and believe it or not, your customer knows and expects it. It’s all about how you respond.
The actions and attitude you display are what makes loyal, satisfied, and even delighted customers. In fact, your positive response makes the kind of customers who may not even entertain the idea of switching to another product even if the new product is better or faster. People respond to the security of knowing they will be taken care of when
things go bad. Of course, the flip side is that if the customer perceives a negative response, nothing will make them hit the phones looking for a new vendor faster. So, here’s your opportunity to show what you’re made of.
Here are some rules to follow to ensure a successful recovery from a serious product or service failure.
First, learn to apologize, even if it’s not your own personal fault. Be honest about the problem, and never lie. Don’t blame anybody either. Blaming and lying is what’s called digging a deeper hole. Try “These things happen sometimes, let’s get it taken care of right away”. Acknowledge there is a problem and disarm them by letting them know it will taken care of. That’s what they want to hear. Anything else you say may just be exasperating. Who do you want to be; the one they want to strangle or their knight in shining armor?
Here’s one word of caution. It’s wise to ask a few pointed questions to find out exactly what is wrong (not who is to blame) so that you are sure it is really something you can fix. Even if you can’t fix it, tell them you will find out what the fix is and get right back to them.
Listen and empathize. Make them feel like you care. The questions you ask are the same kind of questions you might ask in a sales situation that gently lead the customer and you to the right course of action. Let them “get it off their chest.” Try to make the customer feel like you are on their side, not their adversary. Your job is to help them, to be their mouthpiece, to be their representative when it comes to interfacing with your company.
You may have to “Fair – Fix” the problem. Sometimes the problem cannot be totally resolved. You may have to use your imagination to come up with an equitable solution. But that is an exception. Usually what they want is what they wanted originally. That would be what you sold them and told them they were going to receive. This is the time to snap to, and work to get the problem resolved as fast as possible. Make them feel like their problem is your single minded focus.
When the problem cannot be totally resolved by a repair or fix, such as a product failure that caused lost labor, offer atonement. Make it up to them. Put yourself in their shoes, what do you think would make you feel like you were treated fairly, then do it.
Keep your promises. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Lastly, follow up. You may have to talk to people in your service department to get things rolling. They may not have the same concerns you do. Be the squeaky wheel for your customer and make sure. The client depends on you to be their spokesperson when it concerns your company.
You can’t expect that everything will be perfect for all your customers. If you don’t already know how your company deals with it’s problems, make it a point to find out. If you have a service department, make a point to meet with them, put a face to the voices. Customers have expectations for how effective service recovery should happen. Yet complaining customers can actually become more loyal than customers that pronounce themselves satisfied.
The next time you have someone calling who has a problem, recognize that this is your opportunity to show them what your made of. This is your opportunity to make a loyal friend out of what was once just your customer.