with Professor Pocock

3rd in a series about customer service . . . Topic: Service recovery

Dropped the ball?  Here are six steps to redemption.

Even organizations that have exceptional customer experience programs in place will drop the ball on occasion. Sometimes it may not even be their fault. Still, they must accept responsibility for a failed experience created by their vendors, other business partners and yes, even Mother Nature.

Customer service is critical to developing and maintaining a competitive edge in today’s market place. The bad news is that industry statistics suggest only 50 percent of the population will even give you the chance to solve their problem. But here’s the good news:  if you solve it, those customers are more loyal than those customers who never even had a problem!

Consider the value of these six steps when handling customer complaints.

  1. Listen. There’s a reason God gave us only one mouth, but two ears. Try to make it habit to spent at least twice as much time listening as you do speaking. Listening is the first critical step because it lets the customer feel heard, feel validated. And if you don’t do that right off the bat, very little else will matter.

    Apology, fruit, and water thrilled this customer. Have you thrilled your customers lately?

  2. Repeat back what you heard. This is the key technique to empathic listening. Do this by listening as much your eyes, as with your ears.
  3. Apologize. You never need say much more than simply, “I’m sorry.”  And don’t try to give an explanation (unless asked). Trying to quickly explain what happened on the heels of a sincere apology is a great eraser. The previous words simply disappear.
  4. Show empathy. This is a natural result if the previous three steps are done correctly and sincerely. Identify the feelings the customer is exhibiting and state those feelings to validate the customer. Is she scared? Angry?  Anxious?
  5. Identify the acceptable next steps. Think win-win. That’s not a cliché, nor a glib statement.  Getting to a true “win-win” is hard work. I’ll address that in next week’s post.  I hope you’ll come back and read it. The key in this step is to identify something tangible that makes the customer agree the issue has been resolved.  But to reach a next step that is acceptable to both sides requires that both parties are satisfied.
  6. Thank the customer for bringing this to your attention. Your appreciation can be genuine because research shows that the vast majority of complaints are the results of the system, a business process that is broken. That’s why you want to genuinely thank this customer for bringing this issue to your attention because more than likely it will allow you to fix a process that otherwise would have created problems for others in the future.

Don’t keep them waiting.

Here’s a quick way summarize. When a customer calls to complain, first fix the person. Then fix the problem.  And finally, fix the system or process. Then watch the number of complaints you receive diminish.

photos by JoTagliatella & qthrul