The truth be told, it really is impossible to get it right every time. That’s why great customer service is not about being perfect.
Most customers know this and expect an occasional problem to occur. It’s not so much the problem that is the issue, usually. It’s the way we (or our team) handle the situation.
I learned early in my career that problems (aka complaints) actually offered a great opportunity to build relationship and loyalty with a client.
The catch? Owning up to or taking responsibility for the problem – sometimes even if it was on the client’s side and not ours.
Often it was on our end, but not always. But we’ve all heard the saying ‘the customer is never wrong’.
If you’re in business that pretty much needs to be your motto. It’s not so much that the customer IS always right. They’re not. But, they need to see us owning the problem when they believe they are in the right. Arguing to prove we are right and they are wrong may allow us to win the battle, but we’ll likely lose the client.
OK, we may not lose the client immediately. But there will likely be a crack in their loyalty. They may feel betrayed, resentful, wronged, embarrassed, whatever. They may even know they were mostly responsible. But that often won’t matter if we don’t handle the situation well.
Conversely, handle their concerns well – whether it was our fault or theirs – and you can deepen the relationship with the client. They’ll (usually) appreciate and respect our willingness to own the problem and will (likely) extend a certain amount of grace. Provided we fix the problem quickly and make things right. All with a caring and courteous attitude (also known as humility), of course!
Heck, we may even find they are more committed to you after the problem than they were before. Why could that be? Just maybe, you’ve proved yourself as trustworthy and deserving of their business. They have confirmation that you have their best interests at heart, that you really do value them as a client. And chances are, if you’ve handled the situation really well, they’ll become one of your best promoters – assuming the service and products you provide are truly deserving of this.
If you take a minute to think back on problem situations you’ve been in as a client and how you’ve been taken care of, or not, you’ll get the picture.
Clients deserve the benefit of the doubt. Sure sometimes we’ll be taken advantage of. And sometimes we won’t be able to fix mistakes or take responsibility for something that is very clearly customer error and possibly un-fixable.
But where we can, we should own the problem. Where we can, we should fix it, whether we’re at fault or not. Where we can, we should give the client the benefit of the doubt, rather than arguing with them. The long-term payoff can be huge.
Consider Costco for a moment. Have you ever tried to return a product to them? It is virtually no questions asked, on almost anything. Yes they’re a big store and can afford to deal with all those returns. But how do you think they got there?
About the Author
Sue Cockburn is the owner of Growing Social Biz. Growing Social Biz help small businesses increase their impact, expand their market share and improve their bottom-line through social media and internet marketing.