It’s inevitable – you made a big mistake and a customer is really mad. An unhappy customer typically responds by either calling you incessantly to fix the problem, or he won’t take your calls to offer to remedy the situation. Either way, here are a few tried and true tips to fix a customer blunder:
1. You gotta think. Before you apologize, before you say you’re going to fix everything, press your lips together and think. When you realize you’ve made a customer mad, you must get to the root of the problem. By quietly observing and listening to your customer, you will be better able to determine exactly what went wrong.
2. Sincerity is like magic. Granted, sometimes the mistake is too big and the customer will fire you even after you say you’re sorry. Most of the time, however; simply sincerely listening to the client’s side of the story and genuinely apologizing will at least earn you the opportunity to try to make amends. Warning – don’t be glib, argue, or make jokes during this conversation. Your customer is mad and doesn’t want you to make light of the problem. Turn your phone off or leave it in the car, look the customer straight in the eye, and don’t fidget.
3. Make it right. This is a critical part of the process and one that people usually get wrong. Each customer’s need is different, so best practice is to listen, get an idea for what the heart of the problem is, and then say, “I am so sorry that this happened. Your business and trust are important to me. What can I do to make this right?” Then, stop talking. The customer is probably still mad, so he may need some time to think. Just sit quietly and look at your lap, the table, or around his office occasionally to take the pressure off of him to come up with an answer. Remember, he’s really upset and his thinking might be a little cloudy. Once the customer comes up with a remedy, give it a moment of thought. Consider the cost if you agree to the customer’s suggestion, and the consequences if you don’t. Warning – if you feel like the customer is so mad that he might ask for something unrealistic, suggest a specific remedy rather than letting him decide.
NOTE: If your customer realizes you made a mistake and is calling you because he is mad, don’t avoid the customer. Take the phonecall, listen and follow the steps above. Try to schedule a meeting as soon as possible with your unhappy customer so you can re-establish your repore with him face to face. Old statistics showed that an unhappy customer would tell an average of 24 people about his experience with your company. Now, with the huge number of people using social media such as Facebook and Twitter, that number has grown to 3,000!