Often what a customer wants most from a company is to be treated like a person. They want real, authentic human interaction. Mostly, this human kindness will come while you cater perfectly to their every need, deliver the goods and services efficiently and then send them on their way with a massive smile on their face.
But every now and then things will go wrong. The customer won’t get exactly what they were looking for, the service won’t be 100%, or there will be some kind of misunderstanding.
This is unfortunate and nobody wants this to happen, but occasionally it does. If handled properly, these hiccups can be converted into an opportunity to improve customer relations, build real human interaction and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.
When a customer calls into your bank branch to complain that an unauthorised debit order was taken off her account, you should treat the person like you would like to be treated.
Here is a good procedure to follow that fixes the problem while building a real human interaction:
- Understand the problem. Listen carefully and make sure you know exactly what the client’s complaint is.
- It doesn’t matter if they actually signed an authorisation and it’s technically their fault. This isn’t about who’s right or wrong. It’s about building a relationship on good customer service.
- Take immediate action. Fix the problem timeously. In this case, reverse the debit order.
- Ensure it doesn’t happen again. That means working out who authorised the debit, and why, and adjusting your systems so it doesn’t happen again.
If you go through this process as efficiently and as pleasantly as you can, you might find the customer comes out the other side in a pretty good mood. Their complaint has been acknowledged, they’ve got an apology and it’s been sorted out.
Manage Client Expectation
Communication is a crucial skill in all aspects of business — you can seldom have too much of it. Customer service also improves the way we communicate.
New customers especially, need to be told what to expect from their interaction with you, so you need to communicate with them.
If you don’t, the great work you’re doing for them can be misunderstood and lead to complaints simply because the customer doesn’t understand your process.
Case Study: Managing client expectation
Let’s imagine you run a florist. A customer comes rushing into your store. He wants a flower arrangement immediately for his wife’s birthday tomorrow. Half out of breath, he insists, “Just sell me one now.” But you’re a custom florist — you don’t have many floral arrangements ready to go.
You need to explain to your customer that all your bouquets are made to order. He can make a selection from your online catalogue, provide the address and his selection will be delivered the same day.
So, while you can supply a quality arrangement quickly and efficiently, you don’t supply over-the-counter bouquets immediately.
Other cases where client expectations should be managed:
- For instance if a client is buying outdoor media advertising, the execs should explain the process, and the timelines before the client’s ad appears on a billboard.
- Any service that involves a wait. Why is there a wait? How long will it be? What is the best way to see out the wait? Communicate all this to your customer. The Hartbeespoort Cableway, for instance has signs all along their queuing area announcing, ‘expected queuing time from here: 15 minutes’
- New services. We all know how toy shops work. But what exactly happens at the Build-A-Bear Workshop? It’s a new concept that needs to be clearly explained to new customers who are trying it out.
- A problem. Has your computer system gone down? Are you experiencing ‘unexpected call volumes’? All of these should be explained to the customers affected so they know what to expect.
How To Lose A Customer
A customer who complains won’t necessarily stop supporting your business. If you resolve her complaint properly, she might become your most loyal customer ever. On the other hand, you often never even know about the customers you lose.
These people have a disappointing experience, and then they walk out of your business and never come back. That disappointing experience is usually poor customer service.
Here are some no-nos that will cost you customers every time:
- Disinterested staff. This would be someone just going through the motions, unable to raise a smile, lurking with folded arms and only there to ring up purchases and collect a pay cheque. A customer will always prefer to shop somewhere with dynamic, friendly staff.
- Poor atmosphere. This includes the cleanliness of your premises, your phone manners, attitude and appearance of the staff, the music and the lighting. If you don’t have a good vibe, people don’t come back.
- Pushy sales people. A telesales person who hounds a potential customer will only end up getting blocked. Likewise those timeshare agents who pounce on every hotel guest they see. Your first instinct is to avoid them.
- Slow service and response times. If someone orders a printer from your electronics store and you never get back to them, they will never return. I guarantee it.
- Hard to pay. If your store doesn’t have a speedpoint machine and you have no change in your till, or your ‘systems are down’, then not only don’t people want to buy from you, they can’t.
- I once almost bought a second-hand car from a dealer who said it had only had one owner, a 90-year-old man. His colleague told me it was a 60-year-old woman. I would have felt more comfortable with someone who under-promised, rather than over-promised and made
- No staff available. If no one answers the phone, or I can’t find a shop assistant, or no cashier is prepared to ring up my purchases, I don’t buy anything, simple.
Avoid these at all costs — whether customers complain about them or not.
Customers want authentic human interaction and you can give them that by catering to their needs as well as possible. Deliver the goods and services proficiently and they’ll not only leave smiling, but return for the same experience.