Accepting the fact that you have disappointed a customer takes a great deal of humility. When you are in this difficult situation, your relationship with your customer is icy and the last thing you want is for your disappointed customer to become a former customer.
With so many online channels for customers to give you a crippling review, you need to treat them well. A single bad review can tear down your entire reputation, and it will be far worse if you handle it carelessly.
At the same time, disappointed customers present a great opportunity for you to show outstanding customer service. Admitting your faults will make your customer less agitated and possibly give you a chance. At the very least, you avoid going viral for the wrong reasons. If all goes well, you will not only keep your customer, but you will also get good reviews and referrals for your integrity.
Take care of your disappointed customers. Emphasize your empathy. Deliberately go to great lengths to reconcile. Do not take short-cuts. Here’s the full, no-nonsense guide to seriously amend your mistakes.
Admit Your Fault
I assume that you are indeed in the wrong. If you are right and your customer is trying to take advantage of you, the following steps are not for you. Instead, you should read _____________.
So, you admit it’s your fault. You need to be upfront and say that you are truly sorry. Do NOT say “I am sorry for this terrible inconvenience. We all make mistakes from time to time…” Do NOT ever trivialise your mistake. The fact that your customer complained, it is not trivial to him. Empathize with his situation.
Explain Your Mistake
Often a one-liner apology will be interpreted as not taking your mistake seriously. Take the embarrassing and humbling step of going through with your customer what went wrong. The key is to EXPLAIN your mistake, not justify or rationalize it.
When you take the time to show that you understand the entire process, you assure your customer that you understand his situation thoroughly. You show that you are being sincere and empathetic rather than dismissive.
However, please do not apologise for something that is not your fault. If your customer did have a part of the blame, you should also write it clearly and concisely.
Offer A Solution
Giving a compensation that is due your mistake is difficult because it is often not possible to quantify your faults. To you, the fault may not look big. But to your customer’s situation, it may matter a great deal. So do not under-compensate.
Sometimes overcompensating can actually do more good for the long-term relationship with your customer. You need to be discerning about the nature of the relationship and decide how much you value it.
After compensating, it is very tempting to immediately forget the ugly episode and move on. However, I personally recommend that you follow up with your customer to ask for feedback. Let your customer release all his opinions and not bottle them up against you. Remember to value the relationship over your ego.
Usually at this point, your customer would have sobered up from his anger. With the benefit of hindsight, your customer can reflect on the episode from a fresh lens. Usually, they will be forgiving. Sometimes, they will think “Hey, actually it wasn’t that bad. Thanks for going so far to look after my needs.”
With the respect you earn, your relationship has weathered a terrible storm and you have passed the test. Your customer will remember this episode vividly. Such humility and sense of responsibility are rare, and your customer might not even expect you to take so much effort to recover the relationship.
It sounds so simple, yet it is often a huge challenge for any of us to go the extra mile when we can just try to forget our mistake and hopefully it just disappears. But if we have courage, we might just be rewarded handsomely with a loyal customer that is hard to earn these days.
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