Almost all customer service training includes instructions for dealing with unhappy customers. These steps usually include the importance of listening without interruption and the need to empathize, validate, apologize, take responsibility, and agree on a solution.
The best companies add an additional step that helps turn a negative experience into a positive one. Sometimes I'm not sure the people who do this even realize what they're doing; it just comes naturally. The extra step is easing the customer's inconvenience. It's an important part of the solution but it's a step that most people overlook.
For years when I worked in a store I didn't understand why customers were still mad after I agreed to fix their problem. "Sure I'll swap out that massage chair, sir. All I need you to do is box it back up in the original packaging and bring it back to the store."
Why did my unhappy customer remain unhappy? I had listened, empathized, apologized, taken responsibility, and given him a solution! What's the big deal? Obviously the big deal was that I didn't ease the customer's inconvenience. The problem remained a problem for the customer even I'd given him a solution.
To successfully turn unhappy customers into happy and loyal customers you must assess what inconvenience the problem is causing the customer. Will the problem with the product cause the customer any inconvenience? Will the solution, or any part of the solution, cause the customer any inconvenience?
Try to create a solution that will exceed the customer’s expectations and at the same time is fiscally responsible. If my car is the shop and the dealer offers to call me a cab, that doesn’t meet my expectation.. Giving me a ride somewhere might meet them, but the biggest WOW is to loan me a car since that's what does the most to ease the inconvenience.
Here are some ways you might consider to ease a customer’s inconvenience .Consider giving a small gift card for having to make a return trip to the store. Offer to have the item picked up by UPS. Consider waiving the price difference. Offer to have an employee bring the replacement product to the customer’s house.
Unfortunately, many retailers look at solutions that ease the customer's inconvenience as a profit opportunity, not as the extremely important customer service and experience tool it is. Nothing is less productive than trying to squeeze money out of someone who is already unhappy. Retailers need to ask themselves if the short-term revenue is worth what the loss of a customer will cost in the long run.
By the way, the best part about easing a customer's inconvenience is that it makes you a hero in the customer's eyes. And who doesn't want to do more business with a hero?
So let me ask, are you easing your customer's inconvenience?
Doug Fleener, a proven retail and customer experience expert and consultant, helps companies dramatically improve their customer experience and their sales results. Visit the Dynamic Experiences Group website, or call Doug at 866-535-6331 to discuss how he can help you create extraordinary results.