Fostering loyalty is all about creating a positive customer experience, both in person and online, as dissatisfied customers are more likely to take their business elsewhere. So what happens when you make a mistake and need to backpedal? Here are some tips on handling negative situations to ensure that your customers have a positive experience, whether you’re interacting with them in person, on the phone or online.
Let Your Actions Speak for You
Most dissatisfied customers will forgive a poor experience if you apologize with a peace offering. Capitalizing on technology makes it quick and easy for you to be the hero while giving your customers instant gratification:
- Offer a complimentary promotional gift card: this will speak volumes and is an incentive for a customer to visit your business again.
- If you sell e-gift cards, you can rectify the situation immediately by emailing a card that the customer will receive in seconds.
- Alternatively, if you run a loyalty program, add points to a customer’s loyalty card on the spot so they instantly qualify for a reward.
Respond Promptly to Online Reviews
Everyone has an opinion these days; but the difference between now and a few decades ago is that anyone — from tourists and locals to fashion bloggers and food critics — can publicly share their opinions on websites (think Google and Facebook) that thousands of people can read and that your business can’t control. Some reviewers can get carried away due to the anonymity of writing behind a screen, but their reputation isn’t on the line: yours is. Keeping in mind that your replies are public, here’s how you should handle negative reviews:
- Don’t leave reviews unaddressed, as potential customers will very likely be influenced by them and take them as an excuse to not visit your business.
- Stay polite, even if you disagree with a comment (no, the customer’s not always right, but you should still stay professional).
- Never degrade or humiliate a customer or put them on the spot. Humour can lighten the mood, but don’t be sarcastic.
- If you haven’t made a mistake and a customer just doesn’t like the way you run things, give them a brief justification, but still mention that you appreciate their feedback and will take it into consideration to improve your business.
- Ask them to contact you by phone or email. Even better: if your customer is a member of your loyalty program or if you still have their number from a recent reservation, contact them directly. In both cases, you might be able to clarify a misunderstanding or simply get more details on the issue and offer compensation. If you end up resolving the issue, kindly suggest that they update their review or comment.
Be a Sympathetic Ear over the Phone
When a customer takes time out of their busy schedule to call you with a complaint, chances are they want to keep doing business with you and are giving you a chance to redeem yourself. Don’t blow your second chance! Here’s what you should do when a disgruntled customer calls in:
- People who take the time to call and complain feel unheard or like they experienced an injustice and often just need to vent. If the customer is verbally aggressive, ask them to call back when they’ve calmed down.
- Thank the customer for having brought the issue to your attention.
- Never say that you don’t believe them or things like “that doesn’t sound like so-and-so”: take their word for it and apologize for their negative experience.
- Tell them that you’re taking this seriously, and for major mess-ups, that you’ll be escalating the issue to make sure it’s properly addressed.
Own Up to In-Person Mistakes
Did you forget to note a customer’s reservation or to not add peanuts to an allergic customer’s order? Did a cashier charge a customer twice for a product or forget to remove the security tag from an outfit they needed to wear that night? Saving face and having your staff’s back without vexing a customer and vice-versa can be tricky when both parties are standing right in front of you. No matter the situation, remember to always:
- Stay calm and professional.
- Apologize for your mistake or for not meeting their expectations.
- Let them know that you’ll be taking steps to make sure similar situations don’t happen again, or that you’ll use their feedback to improve your business.
- Compensate them for their negative experience, for instance with a promotional gift card, a dish on the house, a discount or some other perk.
- Mention that you value their business and hope to see them again. If you can remember their name for next time, even better!
Losing one customer among hundreds or thousands may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but you should never underestimate the power of a loyal brand ambassador’s word of mouth or their lifetime value to your business.