Bringing back an aggrieved customer has been referred to as ‘service recovery’ and the process has been defined by Ron Zemke as “a thought-out, planned process for returning aggrieved customers to a state of satisfaction with the firm after a service or product has failed to live up to expectations.”
Even though today’s customers are impatient and short tempered, it is fortunate that they don’t expect you to be perfect. They know that to err is human, but still they expect that you always demonstrate that you care in the face of their dissatisfaction.
As Larry Berry, a Texas A&M professor puts it “The acid test of service quality is how you solve customers’ problems.” Customers do not care about how much you know until they know how much you care. But how do you make an aggrieved customer to be loyal to you again? Follow these suggestions and you make the relationship with your aggrieved customers to remain intact and even become stronger:
Angry customers feel betrayed and victimized in some way and may come to you in a “ready to fight” mode. If you meet them with the same fury, matters would get worse. Show humility as you try to calm them down.
It requires you to create a connection that shows you are sincere and concerned about their plight; and also that you share in their disappointment.
Offer an apology and do it in first person singular; say “I am sorry” and not “We are sorry”. This will demonstrate that you care.
The customer may be shouting and making all manner of gestures, but you need to lower your voice, speak less and listen more.
Let the customer witness that you are truly concerned and are ready to offer a solution.
Empathy and understanding prompt a customer to change from the ‘fighter’ mode to a calmer and composed posture. Empathy is a powerful tool and an expression of kinship. Communicate with the customer and let them fully appreciate that you understand the impact of the service failure.
An expression like, “I get it! I know just how much this hurts. I would feel just like you do if this had happened to me,” would go a long way in cooling the customer’s temper.
Approach problem solving as if you are working together
Form an alliance with the customer. Let them feel that they can also contribute to the process of finding a solution. Ask for their suggestion and what they would like to happen.
You will build trust with the customer if you involve them in problem solving. And you also need to be quick in providing the solution.
Make a follow up
A follow up shows you are loyal and concerned about the customer’s welfare. A follow up shows that you can keep your promises and will convince the customer that whatever had happened was not intentional.
A follow up also communicates to the customer that you have not abandoned them after solving their problem.
A problem that is fully resolved to the satisfaction of the customer and also in good time will make them more loyal than they were before.