When a customer experiences poor customer service, what happens next can make or break your relationship with that customer. Can you win back a customer after a negative experience? If so, how?
First, the bad news: According to a study by SDL, when customers have a really difficult customer experience, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) either stop recommending the company, start looking for an alternative solution, or actively start to disparage the company via word-of-mouth, social media, or other online means.
Poor customer service occurs at all stages of the customer relationship. In fact, 20 percent of poor customer experiences happen before a customer even buys the product or service, and 16 percent occur at the point of purchase.
Younger customers are less forgiving than most when it comes to customer experience failures — which is bad news, since this generation is the future of your business. More than one-fourth (27 percent) of young Millennials won't try to resolve the problem — instead, they'll just move on to your competition. By comparison, just 13 percent of Baby Boomers will give up on resolving a customer service issue.
Win Them Back
One-third of customers who have a terrible customer experience say they will never return to that company. However, that means two-thirds of customers are still open to continuing to do business with your company — but it requires some effort on your part.
According to the study, there are three things you can do that are highly effective in winning back customers. Put them all together, and these three actions serve as a roadmap:
1. Take ownership of the failure and admit your mistakes. Don't try to put the blame on the customer, even if that's where it really belongs! Taking responsibility for the failure will do a great deal to calm customers down, and 29 percent say this would win them back.
2. Give the customer a genuine, personalized apology. It's important to make sure this apology does not come off as canned, as so often happens with customer service representatives. Following up a phone discussion with an email or even a personal note can do a lot to reaffirm your sincerity. Twenty-two percent of survey respondents say that an apology would win them back.
3. Give the customer discounts, credits, or rebates on products or services where the failure occurred. Interestingly, this is actually the least important step of the three—21 percent of survey respondents say this will rebuild their relationship. However, it's also where the rubber meets the road in showing that you stand behind your product or service.
It’s All About Your People
The study found that customers tend to blame people when they have a poor customer experience, whether that's warranted or not. By the same token, however, people are the deciding factor in winning customers back. Pleasant and helpful customer service employees (35 percent) and well-trained and knowledgeable customer service reps (27 percent) are the top factors in successful customer service, according to the survey.
The takeaway: Hiring good people and training them right is your best weapon against the inevitable customer service failures. Focus on finding employees with the right attitude and then provide your customer service reps with the training, tools, and knowledge they need to do their jobs. You'll be well equipped to prevent customer service failures whenever possible and overcome them when you have to.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.