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Turning Unhappy Customers Into Loyal Supporters

Saturday, September 1, 2007

"The best practice for turning unhappy customers into loyal supporters is to catch dissatisfaction as early as possible. Encourage customer feedback: 1) Listen to understand their perspective; 2) Identify what is really needed; and 3) Address the need in a way that makes you shine under the circumstances. Demonstrating your commitment to achieving customer objectives when the going gets rough reinforces the relationship and can even lead to new opportunities in the future."

These are the observations of consultant Pam Harper, president of Business Advancement, Inc. in Glen Rock, NJ. Her investigation is part of an informal study conducted by the Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC) which asked its worldwide membership to examine the issue of "saving" unhappy customers.

"Unhappiness, when expressed, is a sign of interest," says SAC CEO Alan Weiss, Ph.D. "That's a key distinction. Apathy kills you because your customer simply doesn't come back. But a vocally unhappy customer presents an opportunity to save that business."

Rob Benson, president of First Steps Training and Development in Brandon, MS has also observed the phenomenon, and makes these suggestions:

"Show your commitment to stand behind your product or service. Provide a free service or product of equal or greater value; if you provide a product, expedite the shipping and have it waiting on your customer's doorstep when he or she goes out to get the morning paper. Include a coupon with 50% (or whatever your markup is) off on his next order and a handwritten note of thanks for bringing the quality issue to your attention.

"If it is unclear how to make good with the customer, ask him, 'How can we make this right for you?' Don't barter at this point; do what he suggests."

"A complaint is a sign of interest," stresses Weiss. "You can ignore it and lose the customer, who will tell 20 other prospective customers, or you can use it as a springboard to greater loyalty."

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