For my sixth year of speaking at the International Franchise Association's convention, I decided to take a different approach. I engaged in more of a conversation with the members of this great organization and asked the audience members to share some of their best practices that were related to various topics on the agenda.
Jim Brown, chief operating officer of Handels, a chain of homemade ice cream and yogurt shops, was one of the participants who shared one of his best practices. If you haven't heard of Handels, you should know that this chain of ice cream shops has won numerous accolades, including listed as being No. 1 in the world for ice cream according to the book, «The Ten Best of Everything: The Ultimate Guide to Travel» published by National Geographic.
Jim shared that he has an unusual way of dealing with complaints. My first response was, how many complaints does an ice cream store receive? Not many, but when Jim does have an unhappy customer he apologizes and talks to the customer about how he can make things right. So far, nothing out of the ordinary That's what most of us would do. But Jim then takes it further — he asks the complaining customer to become part of his secret shopper program. How's that for a unique approach? He actually turns his complainers into mystery shoppers!
As you can imagine, the customers love doing this. It's a brilliant idea. Jim does not skip over apologizing and fixing the problem, but then he makes the customers feel like part of the Handel's team. They get to help ensure a positive experience for other customers (and some free ice cream too!). What a way to turn complaining customers into customer evangelists!
Like most brilliant ideas, the premise is simple, but the results are excellent. It not only resolves the customer's complaint and restores confidence in the company but also makes the customer feel like part of the team, creating a stronger bond. This type of feeling builds loyalty and almost guarantees that the customer will come back — and bring others in too.
No matter my level of expertise in customer service, I'm amazed that there's always something new to learn and to try. Companies are always finding new ways and coming up with new ideas to amaze their customers — even turning complainers into evangelists. Do you have a unique idea? Send it to me in an email and I may just include it in my next book.