Caroline is taking a wee break this week, so it’s down to me to serve up your next course of information on the subject of customer service. This week we are talking about what to do when it all goes wrong.
We’ve all heard the saying, “the customer is always right” and I’m sure anyone who has ever worked in retail, hospitality or travel will probably have queried its wisdom at times. However, whoever first said it has a point.
When a customer complains, often the first reaction is defensive. We all believe in our products and services, and don’t like to be criticised. However, that’s not really important; the customer thinks something has gone wrong, and that’s what needs to be addressed.
Apart from good manners and decency, there are two main (and more selfish) reasons for dealing promptly and generously with a complaint.
1. Lifetime customer value
In most businesses, a customer is for life, not just for one transaction. It is worth doing the sums – how much is each customer worth to you over the average timescale that they stay loyal to you? With that figure in mind, it probably doesn’t seem that expensive to refund your unhappy customer, or provide them with compensation, if it is going to keep them coming back to you time after time.
2. Word of mouth
It’s bad enough when you know how many people a customer is likely to tell when they are unhappy with the service they received (it’s a lot more than they tell if they are happy – let’s face it, it makes a better story!), but once you add social media into the mix, the potential for your reputation to become tarnished very quickly is enormous. And then there are the likes of Trip Advisor, reviews on Amazon and many others. If a customer is complaining publicly, it is advisable to deal with them promptly, take the complaint offline, and try to provide a remedy. If you deal with the problem well, you may be lucky enough to receive a public compliment.
Caroline will be back in the hot seat next week, but in the meantime if you have any examples of great or terrible complaint handling we’d love to hear about them in the comments here or over on Twitter @debutmarketing