Righting a Wrong - Getting the Customer Back
by Daniel Houck

Dear (Your company name here) -

I never write letters like this. However, I must inform you that I will never again patronize your organization. I am taking my business elsewhere. The experience I had while trying to buy your products and services was unbelievable. I am so angry right now I could kick a dog, and I love dogs.

To your ever-shrinking bottom line and dwindling profits.

Sincerely, Irate and upset with money to spend.

Ouch. Now that's going to leave a mark. Ever write one of these letters? Ever get one of these letters on your desk? Ever wonder what could have happened that would cause someone to take the time from their lives to pen such a complaint? Think they're simply a crazy old loon?

We have all experienced poor service. Fact. We have all become furious over an experience we have had while trying to spend our hard earned money. Fact. We have all wondered aloud how in the hell could this company keep growing while they treat their customers this way. Fact. We have all taken our business to the nearest competitor and told two friends about the experience, and they told two friends and they told two friends and so on.

The B schools will tell you; the textbooks will shout at you, the gurus will guru to you or whatever the gurus do that getting new customers is the most expensive part of growing your business. It's not the systems, the software, the buildings; it's getting enough NEW customers to pay for all of that while maintaining a competitive servicing and selling machine/organization, one that supports and makes happy - all customers, the existing ones, and the ones you hope become "existing".

And yet, I cannot tell you how many times I have had bad experiences when enlisting a company to meet my needs. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have walked out of stores, changed service providers, researched new companies to use, and have otherwise scratched my head in wonderment as to why these companies care so little about making me happy and receiving my money.

How then do you get a customer back after he or she has had it? First and foremost you should be doing everything in your corporate power to avoid this situation in the first place. Should it reach this level, you should do everything in your power to fix it. Immediately.

Try Doing This:

  1. Make no excuses while you are listening to a customer complaint. Hear them out and accept that their perception of the event is very real. Perhaps that 45-minute wait for ice water from the waiter was only 30 minutes. It is irrelevant at the point of your learning about it.
  2. Address each and every issue and concern they raise whether this is right in front of you or you are responding to a letter, an email or a billboard someone rented for the month because they were so upset.
  3. Do not just make amends by providing the original product or service. Exceed this by offering them more. This isn't bad business or a wasted expense. Happy people that are soothed with sincerity, and whose expectations are greeted with above average recompense return to buy another day.
  4. If your email says you will get back to them in 24 hours, do it or change the timeframe on your policy. Be exact and stick to it. Don't try to save money by having a policy of saving money. Save money by having a policy of saving customers and building positive and long-term relationships with them.
  5. Need we say that you should treat new and existing customers the same - like what, gold? No, like glass. They are delicate and fragile and if you let one drop you are doing the organization a disservice. Let one drop and it becomes all too easy to let others drop off and break also.
  6. Put your customer service where your mouth is. Don't just preach it. Perform it. Take action and initiative to get the customer to stay with you. Apologies are not difficult to swallow when you recognize the benefit they provide to both parties.

Getting and keeping customers is what makes the business world exist. It is simply like that sometimes. If a customer feels they have been wronged, then they probably have. Respect this. We're not saying the customer is always right, but we are saying you are always right to act fast, accordingly and with forthright intentions. Do this and your customers will respect your swift measures on their behalf.

Treat the glass with respect and it will do more than hold "whine", it will hold up your organization.

People Notion, www.peoplenotion.com, (888) 799-4369
People Performance Leadership Development Marketing Direction

Daniel Houck is co-founder of People Notion, Company Culture Architects! a performance management training firm that works with some of the best companies in the world, and with those aspiring to be. People Notion specializes in helping people and companies determine their highest expectations and then surpass them.

As a motivational speaker, consultant and writer he moves senior executives and their staffs to shatter the illusion that success, measured by joining people with ROI is not possible. Contact him directly at daniel@peoplenotion.com.

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Also by Daniel Houck: Marketing Right: Gen Y Wants You! and Communication Habit Traps | Many more articles on Customer Service, Sales & Marketing and Executive Performance in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2002 by Daniel Houck. All rights reserved.

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