How to turn a complaining customer into a brand ambassador

How to turn a complaining customer into a brand ambassador
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I hate complaining. I really do.  So when I do express my dissatisfaction with a product or service, you should know that I have had a monologue going on in my head for quite a while. I have infuriated myself to the point where I have to either verbalise it or be arrested for inflicting grievous bodily harm upon the nearest innocent bystander.

It actually takes quite a lot of aggravation before a customer complains – most will keep quiet and simply buy from your competitor or they’ll tell all their friends and family about their bad experience thus ensuring that a whole heap of people will never even give you a chance.  So when a customer complains, believe it or not – they are doing you a FAVOUR!

They’re giving you the chance to prove that despite whatever slip up may have occurred, your business is in fact reliable, professional and capable of delivering what it has promised.  They are probably expecting you to be defensive, apathetic or (and this is my favourite) just be completely ignored until they give up and go away.  So imagine their surprise when you treat their complaint as a wonderful opportunity to prove how great your customer service really is.  And here’s how :

1.  Listen

Let the customer have his say. Don’t interrupt. Don’t argue. Stay clam.  More often than not, he wants to vent his anger (or in my case, deliver my perfected and scathing monologue) after which his anger will lose momentum and the situation will be far calmer.  And really listen. Gather all the facts. Take notes if you have to.  Having to repeat an account number for the fourth time because you haven’t written it down is r.e.a.l.l.y.  f.r.u.s.t.r.a.t.i.n.g.

2.  Apologise

Be sincere.  A simple apology can diffuse the most difficult situations. This is not about who is to blame. You’re sorry that he is unhappy.  Whose fault it is, is irrelevant right now.  And for goodness sake, don’t blame another person or department – how your internal systems/policies/procedures/politics works has got nothing to do with him.  (Although if you do know that the problem/situation IS in fact your businesses fault, admitting as much and apologising will earn you HUGE respect and trust.)

3. Take Action

Immediately.  Be decisive.  Solve the problem, or find someone who can solve it – quickly! If you’re unsure about how to proceed, ask “What would be an acceptable solution to you?” Don’t be offended if he wants to speak to your manager/the owner.  People need to feel like their issue is being treated with the importance it deserves and sometimes that means taking it to management.  To managers/owners/CEO’s – I am your customer, hence the reason that you take home a pay check every month. I deserve your attention – don’t avoid me or make frontline staff members play messenger.  It just makes you look sloppy and uncaring and it’s a surefire way of getting me to take my business elsewhere.

4. Follow Up

Do you really, really, really want to hit the customer service ball out of the park?  Call back the next day and find out if he is satisfied with the solution/replacement.  Is there anything else you can do?  Make sure that promises have been kept.  Did he receive the gift voucher in the post?  Did that e-mail with his new order come though?  Has the regional sales manager called?  If not, follow up again and make sure it happens.  You’ve worked too hard to drop the ball now.

It’s a good idea to start monitoring your company’s reputation online and on social networking sites too.  More and more people chose to use these channels to rant about poor service and you may be able to use it in your favour with some well managed PR.

Some of the most loyal and long standing customers/friends/associates I have today are people I have met while resolving customer complaints. They feel secure when doing business with me because they know that if something goes wrong, I’ll be able to solve the problem decisively and with the minimum amount of trauma.  It’s a personal and professional challenge to make them happy again.  Make it yours too!

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