I was reading a post on a forum the other day from a guy who was outraged by the poor service he’d received in a restaurant. The guy had gone to the trouble of typing up a detailed post describing the entire dining experience and naming and shaming the offending restaurant. I asked the obvious question – what kind of reaction did he get from the restaurant manager? His answer: he hadn’t complained as he hadn’t been asked. The restaurant in question has not only lost a customer AND endured a very public bashing but they are most likely completely unaware that they’ve done anything wrong. That could be any of our businesses!
It is absolutely vital that you never assume a customer is happy, you’ve got to ask.
The worst possible scenario for a business is not knowing why a customer has changed provider-if you don’t know what’s wrong how can you fix it? The onus is on the business to monitor the relationship, not the customer. In the first instance, when you’ve completed a job/made a sale you should always check the customer is happy and if (s)he is, ask him/her for a testimonial. If (s)he’s not happy find out why and offer a solution. It doesn’t end there, satisfaction has a tendency to fluctuate so you need to ensure that you’re asking your customers regularly if there’s anything else you can do for them or if there’s any way you can improve the service you’re providing. This requires a time investment but is not something you can let slip.
Thing is, doing it for the sake of it won’t work either, if someone thinks you’re only going through the motions you’re not going to inspire confidence. I’ll go back to the restaurant scenario, how many of you have been in a restaurant when a disinterested waiter asked “How’s your meal?” while walking by, avoiding eye contact and clearly just wanting to finish his obligatory rounds? It doesn’t exactly open the door to an honest conversation so more often than not you’ll say ‘fine’ regardless of whether it is or not, because you know this guy isn’t going to care either way! Your customers are the same-nobody likes to think of themselves as a box to be ticked off a list so it’s important that you invest the time and passion into blowing your customers away. So you’ve got to mean it. And show you mean it.
Helping to find a solution for the customer is as important as asking about their happiness. A complaint is an opportunity to improve. Really listen to what the customer is unhappy about, then work together to reach a solution. Many businesses will offer a discount in response to a complaint but offering a discount can be like sticking a bandaid on a deep wound-it’ll keep it covered for now but the wound will still fester underneath! It’s the lazy way out and unlikely to prevent a reoccurrence. (Plus I firmly believe that if you need to offer a discount maybe your service wasn’t worth the original price but I digress…) When you have a complaint, a solid problem to work on, you should work closely with the customer to generate solutions that will solve the problem permanently. Then you should think about what other customers may have been affected by the same issue and offer them the same solution-that’s being proactive and will be appreciated. Plus it will ensure that the customers who didn’t like to complain (and that’s quite a few) are no longer suffering in silence.
The message is simple, invest in your customer management – it’s as important a job as new business development and can really contribute to making your business the best it can be.
Remember, unhappy customers are dangerous so don’t create them!
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