Wouldn’t it be great if customers were like mail order products, with lost ones replaced for free? Unfortunately, the reality of customer loss is that replacing them can be wildly expensive. So it’s worth spending some extra time to turn dissatisfied customers into loyal fans. How? Use these recovery skills from Paul Timm, author of 50 Powerful Ideas You Can Use to Keep Your Customers (Career Press, 2002).
1. Empathize with customers’ problems. Don’t jump to defend yourself or your company. If customers say they have a problem, they do. Don’t argue or debate with them; work with them.
2. Apologize for the situation. Even if it isn’t your fault or your company’s fault, you can express regret that the situation came up. You can help deflate customers’ anger by saying: I’m sorry you’re upset. Or, say: I can understand how that would be frustrating.
3. State that you want to help. To indicate your interest in helping, say: Let’s see what we can do to get this fixed.
4. Probe for information. While you are figuring out exactly what the problem is and why it occurred, keep the discussion impersonal. If the customer made an error in the paperwork, don’t assign blame. It will only worsen the situation to say: You didn’t do this right. Instead, say: If you could just enter your 10-digit account number in this space, we can probably get the problem solved right now.
5. Explain options that could solve the problem. Let customers know their options, then ask what action they would like to take. For example: We can either cancel the original order and submit a new one, or…. Which one would you like to do?
6. Summarize the action you will take. Tell customers you value their business and what you are going to do to keep it. If done correctly, this step should make for a pleasant ending that will linger with customers. And don’t forget to say thank you, reminds Timm.