I have always said the best measure of a company and its customer relationships is not how they avoid unhappy customers but how they deal with unpleasant situations. Inevitably, you will do something that some customers do not like. Rather than focusing on avoiding the inevitable, there is more value in building a strong plan to react to these unhappy people and turning them into a resource. In fact, if they are engaged enough to complain to you rather than just go to a competitor, unhappy customers have the potential to be VIPs if you handle them appropriately.
A recent KISSmetrics blog post by Josh Brown, “5 Ways to Turn Your Unhappy Customer Into A Valuable Resource,” provides strong tactical advice on addressing unhappy customers. By applying these tactics, you not only improve the word of mouth the users generate, but also increase lifetime value by building customers (or players) who will continue to purchase your product.
Make your customers feel heard
The most effective way to be liked and admired is by listening to other people, a philosophy around which Dale Carnegie built a career. It is no different when dealing with your customers. An unhappy customer often cares more about being heard and understood than having their issue resolved. This means you need to listen to them and acknowledge their problem, not simply fix it.
As the Brown writes, “if you respond to an unhappy customer by immediately trying to get to a solution, it can possibly backfire and make the customer even more upset. Being unhappy or angry with a company or product puts the customer in a highly emotional state, so the first thing you should try to do is get them into a more agreeable frame of mind.”
Social media is often an opportunity to leverage this principle. You may see multiple Facebook posts about a problem and immediately fix it. While that sounds great, if you do not acknowledge the posts and communicate with the active community, they may not be satisfied and can negate the impact of the fix.
Do everything to satisfy unhappy customers
While some problems are difficult to resolve (e.g., a price increase, dropping a product line), you can always do something exceptional to make the user happy. Making exceptional efforts for your user, especially if it is more than they asked for, makes them feel important, respected and in control. Once a customer feels important, they will go from unhappy complainer to a repeat customer and vocal advocate.
Protect your brand from negative mentions
While most people remember the cliché that one unhappy customer will tell ten of their friends, the reality with social media is they will probably tell 500 … or 5,000. Thus, preventing this negative word of mouth has become of paramount importance. One way to avoid the issue is to be careful about what your company says. What you post, what you tweet and what you pin will define your company. You need to ensure that it is consistent with the messaging you are trying to convey.
Often&emdash;and more difficult&emdash;you need to also ensure that what your leadership publicly says is consistent with your messaging. In the blog post, they point to Lulemon’s CEO’s comments that women who could not wear their clothes were just too fat for them, and the resulting PR disaster that ensued. There is no way to separate a company from its leadership and you thus need to ensure what your leaderships says or tweets is consistent with the image and message you are trying to convey.
Use unhappy situations to build a positive reputation
By doing exceptional things to resolve customer issues, you build a positive reputation that protects you in the future. Nordstrom is largely considered the model for positive customer service. A large part of this reputation is due to the story (most likely urban legend) of a customer returning tires to Nordstrom and receiving a no-questions-asked refund, even though Nordstrom does not sell tires. When you delight your customers by going above and beyond, they share the story with their friends, who then share the story with more friends. Not only does this improve sales and acquisition efforts, but when customers have an issue and expect you to treat them fairly (rather than feel they have to fight you), you are also much more likely to find a solution they are delighted with.
Seize the opportunity for improvement
Every unhappy customer is an opportunity to make your product better. Unhappy customers provide actionable intelligence about your business or product, information you need to improve and gain a competitive advantage. By feeding this information to your product and marketing teams, you can build something that satisfies the market better than your competitors.
Unhappy customers are a valuable resource
If managed properly and you follow the principles above, you can turn unhappy customers into an incredibly valuable resource. You can improve their lifetime value (LTV) by making them more loyal and engaged, turn them into a growth resource and leveraging them to make your products better.
- Unhappy customers can become a valuable resource. They are almost by definition very engaged because they are willing to express their unhappiness rather than just going to a competitor.
- By going above and beyond to make unhappy customers satisfied, they are likely to become loyal long-term customers who may also promote your product to friends.
- Unhappy customers also provide your product and marketing teams invaluable insights in improving your offering and promoting it.