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You’re human. Mistakes will happen. Nothing is perfect and something will go wrong. Not every customer will be satisfied. This is not a failure. The best businesses are the ones that mess up and show how they fix their mistakes. They build their customer’s trust and prove they are listening to them.
When a significant other makes a mistake and owns up to it, do you dump them because they messed up or do forgive them and trust them more because they were honest? Depending on the situation, you’ll forgive them and that will make your relationship stronger.
It’s similar with business. Mistakes happen, but when a business owns up to it and apologizes, they’ll build a better relationship with the customer.
When customers complain, sometimes they just want someone to hear them out.
They had a poor experience, and no matter how big or small it was, the least you can do is listen. What do you learn when you listen? You find out about problems that would have created more dissatisfied customers in the future.
When you listen to a customer, you have an opportunity to establish a relationship with that customer. By listening to them, you’ll let them know you care. Just because a customer is upset doesn’t mean they are a lost cause, or gone forever.
Regardless of the size of the issue, let the customer know you heard their problem and understand their frustration.
One of my first jobs was a clerk at a small drug store/gift shop. I was 16 and terrified when customers complained because I had no idea what to do and no authority to do anything about it. This is when I discovered if I let a customer vent their frustrations to me and apologize for their poor experience, they would always leave happier than when they came in.
It is easy to forget the fact that business is all about relationships. Relationships with your current customers, but with vendors, former customers, clients, the community, and more.
The Perfect Apology, a site dedicated to helping readers craft the perfect mea culpa, understands this relationship connection between a business and customer. It offers the following strategy about how to protect that relationship:
1. Look at the reason behind your business apology and who has been affected by the situation.
2. Determine the most appropriate way to apologize and when that apology should be given.
3. Ask and answer the following four basic questions:
What are you apologizing for?
Who are you apologizing to?
How do you apologize?
When should you apologize?
When someone complains, it’s not the end of the relationship. Instead, it’s an opportunity. It’s a chance to strengthen that relationship and rebuild it.
When I was in the first grade, a teacher of mine told us that if we were going to apologize to someone, sorry is never enough. When you apologize you should state their name, tell them what happened, tell them why it happened, and that you’ll never do it agin.
As I’ve been doing research on business apologies, I’ve been learning this form of apology is what most businesses use. It’s a five-step process.
A crisis is never fun but it does give you an opportunity to build a lasting relationship with your audience. Of course, this is based on how you handle it.
What do customers value more? An apology or some form of monetary value in exchange for the poor experience?
The Nottingham School of Economics conducted a study and found that unhappy customers are more willing to forgive a company that offers an apology rather than monetary compensation.
Why would customers be more willing to forgive a company that offers an apology?
Researchers theorized that when customers hear “I’m sorry”, it triggers an instinct to forgive. It’s an instinct that is difficult for people to overcome.
I have to admit that the results of this study came as a surprise for me.
From my experience, I know customers always value a genuine apology. I’m on the marketing team for a sandwich shop and like anyone in the food industry knows, mistakes happen. Typically when a customer complains, we apologize and offer to send them something in the mail. That something is usually a free sandwich. We’ll typically say something that directly addresses their poor experience, apologize for it and ask for them to give us another chance to make up for their poor experience. I believe this is a good balance between an apology and compensation.
Author Bruna Martinuzzi wrote a wonderful post on the best way for businesses to apologize, sharing some great apology do’s and don’ts. What’s the big takeaway?
One reason business owners don’t want to go into social media is because they are afraid they’ll be on defense the entire time. Any time a customer has so much as a mediocre experience they come flocking to their social media networks and complain. It seems like all they would do on social media is apologize.
According to research by Andy Beal, a reputation manager, a happy customer will tell 5 people while an unhappy customer will tell 10. It’s important to prevent an unhappy customer. When an unhappy customer is using social media, those 10 people can easily turn into 100 and more. This happens when they post a poor review, complain on their social networks, or write a blog post about it.
Because social media influences others, it is important to treat a complaint as seriously as you would a face-to-face complaint. What else do you need to know about apologizing on social media?
For many years, the most popular form of customer service has been, “the customer is always right.” Is that still the best policy?
That policy basically means you’ll be apologizing no matter who is truly at fault in the situation. This policy could be re-phrased. Instead of “the customer is always right” it could be “remember how valuable the customer is.” The customer may not be right, but they are valuable. So, take complaints seriously and respond with respect. It’s true that social media blackmail does happen, but most customers are legitimate with their complaints.
When a customer complains it can seem like they have a bad attitude. That easily makes you have a bad attitude.
Remember: you never know what kind of day another person is having. We all have bad days. It could be something as trivial as they woke up late or something as serious as they found out a loved one passed away. Don’t try to add to their stress, and instead, show them kindness and respect. Most of the time, they will give you the respect you gave them. Even if they still end up with a bad attitude, at least you didn’t contribute to it.
July 23, 2014
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