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Angry Customer Prevention

Having been in the customer service industry for 25+ years, I’ve heard, seen, attended and listened to various programs/seminars regarding “how to handle an angry customer”. Most often, these programs/seminars are very informative and provide excellent guidance on dealing with a not so happy customer. My question has always been – Why is the customer unhappy and is there anything that can be done to diminish the number of unhappy customers? My instincts say take a proactive stance in the battle to prevent angry customers. Here are a few ways to do so.

Why Are Customers Unhappy?
Is there a pattern to the reasons that customers are unhappy? Is anyone in your organization tracking these reasons? It’s been my experience that if you have one customer complaining about an issue or situation, more than likely there are others complaining about the same things. During one call center stint, it was common for customers on certain billing cycles to experience problems with their bills – improper amounts, additional charges, etc. We all know that this issue will certainly create angry customers and additional phone calls. While it’s important for the agents to be equipped with “how to handle angry customers” skills, how about determining what’s causing the “angry customer” issues. Identify external and internal issues that might be contributing to your customers’ unhappiness with your organization. Doing so will surely diminish or even eliminate the need for the customers to call and for customer service personnel to exercise their “how to handle angry customers” skills for these particular issues. Oh yeah, be sure that your customer facing personnel are equipped with the proper customer interaction soft skills – voice tone, empathy, body language, etc. – so that they do not inadvertently create an angry customer!

Why Are Front Line Personnel Unhappy?
It’s been my experience that unhappy employees are an indicator that there may be organizational issues that negatively impact customers. Customer facing employees become frustrated and angry when it appears no one is interested in addressing issues which contribute to the creation of angry customers. Check with your customer facing employees regarding their experiences when dealing with customers. Are processes both customer and employee friendly? Is the training received sufficient to allow for successful customer interactions? Can employees count on the “system” functioning properly so that they can provide a great customer experience therefore preventing the need to exercise their “how to handle angry customers” skills? Take the time to get and act upon feedback provided by customer facing employees. You might be surprised by how doing so can assist in reducing the number of angry customers for your organization.

How Many Credits or Refunds Are You Issuing?
Another possible indicator of angry customers is the amount of products/services given away, account credits or refunds issued by your organization. Is anyone attaching a reason for these actions? Does your organization’s system allow for logging the reasons for refunds, account credits or other actions taken to appease angry customers? It’s important to monitor these areas as they may be an indicator that customers are not happy with your products or services. Allow your customer facing employees the ability to provide reasons for taking these actions. Analyze these reasons and identify ways to prevent their continuance. Determine how much these refunds, credits or provision of goods/services costs your organization. Spend time with customer facing personnel during their interactions with angry customers to get first hand experience of what appeasement actions are utilized. One’s willingness to take these steps will surely lead to a decrease in the number of angry customers.

It’s a great idea to equip customer facing personnel with “how to handle angry customers” skills. Doing so gives them the confidence to properly handle the situation. Take an additional step by proactively identifying and addressing issues which contribute to the number of angry customers your customer facing personnel encounter. I can guarantee both customers and employees will love you for that!

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4 Steps to Increasing Customer Retention

In these days of fierce competition, it’s crucial to do everything that one can to protect one’s customer base. The ability to retain customers is based on how well your internal operations run. While it’s important to smile and be nice to customers, it’s a good idea to make sure that your internal systems are able to consistently perform at optimum levels. Do you want better customer retention? Let’s take a look at how to get you there.

Map and Analyze Your Internal Processes

When working with clients, I always like to start here. Process mapping gives one an overview of what is actually happening within one’s company. Customers are impacted by your internal processes. How well your processes are constructed determine the level of service received by your customer. Hand off points and delays become clearly visible during this exercise. Process participants can communicate their requirements for completing their part of the process. Customer communication points can be identified. Process cycle time can be determined as well.

Create Consistency

It’s important that your company has a standard way of completing routine tasks. With your employees’ assistance, determine the best way to complete tasks and then develop standard operating procedures. These procedures become a guideline to follow to ensure consistent service delivery. This step also creates confident employees who can truly say “Yes – I do know how to complete that task.” Confident employees create happy customers.

Proactively Seek Feedback

Always, always, always proactively seek both customer and employee feedback. Where possible, attempt to get customer feedback immediately after their experience with your company. Solicit employee feedback regarding ways to improve internal operations. When you proactively seek feedback, the way your customers and employees view your company goes to another level. The information gained can be utilized to improve the experience received by both parties.

Analyzing Customer Complaints

It’s one thing to solicit customer complaints, but it’s another to analyze the complaint information. Look for patterns – is there an issue with one of your service offerings? What time of day are you receiving the most complaints? Is there a particular location that generates the most complaints? On which day of the week do you receive the most complaints? Do the complaints point to a particular process within your company? Did the complaints start after a new product launch? Analyzing your complaints will point you in the direction of quick resolution of the complaint sources.

Want better customer retention? Look inside your business first. How you do what you do will determine how well you retain customers!

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Creating “Crazy” Customers

As I sit in the front area of a client’s business watching the walk-in traffic, one effect is constant – the excited look on most customers faces! This client is a bakery and their products are beautifully displayed in glass cases. I’m watching crazy customers eyes widen as they approach the product cases. Some laugh as they can’t make up their mind regarding which product to choose. Others almost run to get to the cases to pick their favorite product. The employees are so upbeat and ready to serve, patiently waiting for the customer to make a decision. Some customers make jokes – “Is this stuff sugar-free?” “How many can I eat before I ruin my diet?” Now this does not happen just by chance. Let’s talk about what I feel contributes to these customers being just “crazy” about this business.

Reputation
This bakery has carefully established a reputation for providing it’s customers with the best products possible. The owners take pride in maintaining the reputation established 66 years ago by the founders. The products are made fresh daily in order to give customers that “it was made today” comfort level. The general manager has worked tirelessly to create systems to insure product freshness. One must be concerned about both establishing and maintaining a positive reputation with customers and within one’s community. A positive reputation builds trust and credibility with current and future clients. It’s pretty easy for customers to refer you to others when your reputation is intact.

Engaging Employees
I’ve watched how the employees greet each customer individually – even when engaged with other customers. Genuine smiles – even when some customers are a bit gruff. Proactive employees immediately draw customers to them – especially during a face to face encounter. An employee with a delightful attitude bodes well in the quest to provide a great customer experience. It’s important to have the right people in front of your customers. I always advise companies to put “people persons” in front of their customers. I am a firm believer that “people persons” provide great service from the heart. It doesn’t matter what the product or service is, “people persons” look forward to putting smiles on customers’ faces. Be sure to get the right people in front of your customers. Get the ones who “run toward” the customer to make sure the experience is a great one!

Engaged Leadership
Leadership at this bakery is determined to keep customers coming back. The General Manager is tasked with finding ways to make sure the bakery and two satellite stores run smoothly on a daily basis. The need to have engaged leadership is important to a successful enterprise. At the beginning of my stint with this client, we held a “Pet Peeve Conference” to address the “pet peeves” of the owners, management, department heads and employees. This was an all day conference where solutions were developed to remove the need for internal personnel to be “peeved. The recognition by the owners of the need to address these “pet peeves” is an indicator of their desire to make sure that all is well within the organization. When leadership is truly engaged in the day-to-day operations, both employees and customers are beneficiaries.

Do you want customers that are “crazy” about your business? Remember it’s important to maintain a positive Reputation in order to increase customer retention. Make sure you have Engaging Employees interacting with customers and never forget that Engaged Leadership is most critical to your organization’s success.

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Service Recovery – Regaining Your Customer’s Trust

I know from personal experience that mistakes will happen when servicing customers. Providing the wrong information, delivering the wrong goods or perhaps even charging the wrong amount for services can sometimes happen because of the people factor involved. It’s simple – we’re human and we can make mistakes! The key is to determine what one must do to right the situation while at the same time preserving the relationship between the customer and your organization. Here are a few steps that are critical to regaining the customer’s trust.

Acknowledge the Error
The first part of service recovery is to acknowledge that the customer’s expectation of having a great customer experience has not been met. During the customer’s explanation of what has gone wrong from their perspective, make sure to listen intently for the issue. If verification is needed, do this as quickly as possible to show the customer that you too are concerned about the situation. Once you have in fact determined that an error has occurred, acknowledge and apologize as these two go hand in hand in attempting to regain your customer’s trust. It’s been my own experience that once customers feel heard and their situation acknowledged, their anguish level is lowered significantly.

Here’s What We’ll Do
When attempting to preserve the relationship with customers after an error, correcting the situation in a timely manner will score lots of recovery points. The longer it takes to develop and then provide a resolution, the lower your possibility of retaining the impacted customer. Make sure your customer facing employees have options for quickly resolving issues in order to increase the chances of recovering and retaining customers. Get the customer’s buy-in with the proposed resolution. Doing so helps in getting the situation resolved as the customer feels you made them a participant in developing a satisfactory resolution. Most customers understand that mistakes can and do happen. Don’t take that understanding attitude for granted. Promptly make the customer whole if retention is your goal.

Recently a friend offered a story of how the wrong piece of furniture was delivered twice to her residence. After the second error, she called the store and just by chance the owner answered the phone. After explaining the situation, the store owner advised my friend that he would have the correct piece sent out the same day and reimburse her the amount she paid for the piece. While one may not be in a position to offer quite the same resolution as this store owner, imagine how my friend felt about getting the piece for free. Did the store have to go to such lengths to correct the mistake? My friend stated that she just wanted to get the correct piece – she did not anticipate or expect to get it for free. This store will be where she goes for furniture forever!

Are You Still in Love With Us?
After applying the resolution, I suggest that someone follow-up with the customer, if possible, to verify or “take the customer’s temperature” regarding their satisfaction level. The goal is to determine if the customer will continue to purchase goods or services. This step might be the one to win the customer over after the resolution. Questions such as “How satisfied are you with the resolution?” “How likely are you to make a purchase with us in the future?” or “If you could rate our ability to resolve this situation to your satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, where would we rate?” The answers to these questions can help to gauge the effectiveness of your service recovery actions. If yours is an organization where customers make frequent purchases, monitor their accounts for continued activity and or changes in purchasing patterns as these will be true indicators of your customer’s attitude toward your organization.

Service recovery is important to sustaining a solid business reputation. While mistakes do happen, the customer is depending upon you to quickly correct the situation. It’s important to Acknowledge the Error, determine Here’s What We Will Do to correct the situation and get the customer’s buy-in, then determine Are You Still in Love With Us? by following up to determine if your customer is likely to make future purchases with your organization. Earn back your customer’s trust with these simple steps.

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