Effectively Handling Customer Problems Will Cultivate Customer Loyalty
A hallmark of good sales professionals is their ability to defuse customer anger; but the best sales professionals will take a customer problem and parlay it into an opportunity to actually strengthen the relationship and cultivate customer loyalty. How? They begin by recognizing two key facts. First, the manner in which a problem is solved is as important, if not more important, than the resolution itself, and second, the long-term customer relationship is far more important than the issue at hand and should be the sales professional’s primary focus at all times. Consider these tips when you hit a snag with customers:
Start with an apology. Every customer problem creates some level of inconvenience, cost and worry for the customer. Apologizing is the first step in defusing his/her anger and positioning yourself as both an ally and resource.
Don’t just listen; be sure to explore. It doesn’t take much prompting to get a customer to describe his/her problem. Further exploration will reveal if the current problem is part of a chronic issue, or perhaps a more widespread issue. These occasions can become touch points in which we explore the customer’s overall satisfaction with our products, service, etc. Where can my company do better? Where can I, personally, do better? Are there opportunities to increase the value my company brings to this client? Human nature may tempt us not to open “Pandora’s box,” but doing a deeper dive to investigate customer satisfaction will actually cultivate trust and confidence in customers and ensure them that we are thorough, committed to excellence and committed to them.
Respond in a manner that exceeds the customer’s expectations. Simply correcting the mistake isn’t enough and will likely leave the customer less than pleased. Consider this example for illustration… You are in a restaurant and are served a beverage with an insect floating on top. Corrective action would be to bring you another beverage. The wiser response would include a profuse apology from both the server and the restaurant manager, the manager picking up the tab for your entire lunch, and offering some incentive (discount, gift card) for you to return in the future. Your attitude as the consumer would vary dramatically between these two responses.
We all understand that customer complaints cannot go unanswered; that would immediately put the business at risk. In our world of social media and nearly 200 million bloggers, negative customer experiences spread faster and farther than ever, and we all get that. What often goes unrecognized are the wonderful opportunities that can arise from the ashes of a customer problem. Sales super stars treat every customer problem as an opportunity to initiate productive conversations and cultivate the long-term relationship.