Do you ever make mistakes? How about your employees? Assuming that all of you are human, chances are that sometimes you screw up. The measure of great customer service is not that customers never have a problem. It is how those problems are handled when they occur.
Whether you shipped the wrong product, or made a billing mistake, or missed a deadline or . . . whatever the mistake, what the customer cares about most is getting it fixed. How you handle the situation will affect your future relationship with that customer, and what he or she tells others about you. Here are a few simple things that can turn an unhappy customer into a friend for life.
Own the mistake. Admit that you were wrong, apologize, then immediately let the customer know that you are going to fix the problem. Accepting responsibility goes a long way toward diffusing anger.
The customer generally doesn’t care how the mistake happened. Do not bore them with a lengthy explanation of the process and why it happened. It sounds too much like making excuses. They probably do not care for the details of how you are going to correct the problem, either. They care about the result.
Ask the customer what he or she wants. Often, they will ask for less than you would have been willing to offer. That doesn’t mean that you must do everything the customer asks; however, it may give you a simple solution or at least a starting point. If the customer makes unreasonable demands, you can work from there to find a compromise solution.
Exceed expectations. Send a replacement immediately, without waiting for the customer to return the defective or incorrect item. Ship it overnight if they have an immediate need for the product. Give them a little more than what they expect to make up for the inconvenience your error caused.
Follow up. After fixing the problem, call to make sure they are satisfied. Did they receive the result they paid for? Most customers will be amazed and delighted that you cared enough to check.
But what if there was no error and the customer is out of line? There are customers who have unreasonable expectations, and the customer is not always right. Should you do everything they ask? Not necessarily. If the customer is truly unreasonable, you may not care about preserving the relationship; however, you do not want them to spread negative word of mouth, or escalate, perhaps to a law suit.
One way to diffuse the situation may be to simply offer an apology and a refund. Weigh the cost of the refund (Did you incur expense that is not recoverable?) with the cost of continuing to deal with an increasingly unhappy customer. Not only may they harm your reputation and turn other customers against you, the energy you spend dealing with the situation can be harmful to your and to your business.
Oh, and when you give them the refund, be sure to include a referral to your most-disliked competitor!