Relationships are a two-way street. When a mistake is made, it takes a simple ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘You’re forgiven’ to start the mending process. In the world of business, your support team is responsible for keeping the peace in customer relationships, no matter the size of the problem.
It’s always better to prevent a customer service snafu than to fix one, but in a situation where there’s already a problem, here are a few ways in which your company can mend a broken relationship with a customer.
Step 1: Take Responsibility and Ownership
One of the worst things your customer support team can do is to shift the blame. In retail, the mantra “the customer is always right” holds true and when it comes to salvaging your company’s reputation. That’s a good attitude to have.
Assuming ownership of your mistakes shows the customer that you are honest and willing to look for solutions. It eliminates the need to point the finger and speeds up the recovery process. Showcase your company’s transparency as being responsible and open to change. Don’t try to hide problems and information from the customer.
For example, when the Mobile Me product that Apple launched was poorly received, Steve Jobs did not avoid the problem. Instead, he apologized for it during a major press event.
If a business maintains complete transparency it will increase their credibility, whether they make mistakes or not. People appreciate it when a company can be open and clear about what is happening internally as well as on an external level.
Step 2: Take Quick Action
A tiny glitch can develop into many bigger issues when not dealt with immediately. Damage control is all about taking action and making quick decisions to solve the problem. If trained well, your customer support team will be armed with an array of strategies to deal with such problems independently before taking it up with those higher up the ladder. Even if the complaints might not sound serious, don’t underestimate the urgency of your customer’s problems.
In the medical industry, the time difference between an immediate product recall and a delayed reaction can save thousands of lives. Your support staff needs to be extra responsive and efficient when a problem occurs.
Step 3: Provide a Solution or Two
Most mistakes can be fixed in some way. If you cannot reverse the damage done, try offering the customer with an alternative solution or a discount.
Even though this might not fix the problem they are dealing with, it will ease the pain and provide them with something in return.
Providing solutions will require you to think logically and practically. Make sure your customer support team understands which boundaries they can cross and what promises they cannot make. The last thing you would want them to do is to create another mishap.
Provide them with a script for answering common ‘tough’ questions so they have some sort of guide to work with. This will help them deal with the problem immediately, instead of desperately searching for the appropriate answers.
Step 4: Always Apologize
Apart from acknowledging your mistake as a customer service professional, you must also extend an apology to the affected customer. All companies understand the importance of building customer relationships, and part of being in one is having to say sorry.
Apologizing doesn’t always necessarily mean you’re in the wrong. However, it does send out the message that you’re sorry an unpleasant experience occurred. It means you’re committed to making things better.
You don’t have to break the bank in order to extend an apology. If it was your fault and you want to mend the situation, send the affected customer a gift card or even a bouquet of flowers to apologize for the mistake you made. Not only will the individual feel more open to forgiving you, they will also feel connected on a personal level.
One company that does apologize very well is Transport for London. Whenever a service disruption occurs, they put up notices explaining what happened and at the same time, apologies for the inconvenience caused. 9 out of 10 times, it isn’t their fault, but they apologize anyway.
Step 5: Ask for Their Advice
This might sound like a rather strange suggestion, but asking the customer how they would resolve the situation might give you some idea of what they are expecting. It would also give the customer an opportunity to provide input on any improvements that your company could be making. Assure them that you will be fixing the problem, but also give them the opportunity to give voice their opinions.
Not listening to your customers can be costly for your business. Netflix lost 800, 000 subscribers when it ignored popular opinion and increased its prices and splitting the DVD and streaming business.
Step 6: Appoint a Company Spokesperson
Most companies are too small to require a fully-fledged PR Team, but no matter how small an organization is, it’s important to appoint someone to be its “voice”.
If the situation requires a level of damage control beyond the capabilities of your customer support team, it would be wise to involve someone with good communication and public relations skills. Especially when it comes to issues pertaining to the public and press. This will give the company a professional image and provide the public with someone human to “trust”.
Train this individual and bring them up to speed with the company’s damage control policy and contingency plans and ensure that their message is consistent with your company’s. Or better yet, find a Steve Jobs equivalent to front your company.