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Despite all your efforts, there will be times when customers feel you haven’t looked after them. They may feel a sense of injustice, or that your business hasn’t treated them as they might want. How you deal with these situations is critical, if you truly value the importance of great service.

Having put all that effort into winning customers, it makes sense to put similar effort in to keeping them, right? And this should include looking after them when the wheels come off. We all mess up from time to time, or put it another way, the customer perceives that we mess up. If we value great service, then what matters is how we deal with this. And as with all other aspects of service, it’s good to have a plan.

I used to roll my eyes when older colleagues at IBM said ‘They’re not problems, they’re opportunities’ but now I think they were right. Redressing problems, righting wrongs, making unhappy customers happy (or as Damian Mottram at Cellular Solutions says ‘delighted’) has great impact. The issue or problem is often forgotten, and the experience of how it was handled is what they will remember – if you get it right.

 Costco – excellent at dealing with problems

A quick example:  Costco is a wholesaler which aims to provide warehouse facilities to customers who know what they want. So the place is sparse, and the few staff you see about the place are really there stacking shelves. That’s the  service expectation. But if you have a complaint, or want a refund, it’s almost as if they suddenly put their ‘service’ heads on. The staff are empowered to make decisions, and their no quibble approach to refunds really does make customers feel like members.

Costco has chosen to empower its staff, and they have clarity over what they can and can’t do. And they put their customer at the heart of it. It’s structural, deliberate and well coached.

What does this mean for your business?

  • Look back over your records, and see what sort of complaints and issues recur. Is there something you can do better to reduce these?
  • Train your staff to handle complaints and problems as you would handle them. This means knowing what they can and can’t do, and ensuring that the customer exits the problem feeling truly satisfied (delighted); not simply getting a refund or apology through gritted teeth from your business.
  • Put in place a simple system to ensure that all significant problems are tracked and can be reviewed. Capturing some simple information from the customer such as name and email address tells them you are taking it seriously, and also gives you the chance to follow up and check all was handled well.  A simple call from a manager to make sure all is now well can turn disgruntled customers into advocates for your business.

Next up:  What value do you and your team bring?