Friday, 12 February 2016 16:36

The Customer is Always Right, Until They Are Not

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When customers are not the right fit…

Building a solid Business Reputation includes focusing on creating satisfied customers. The ultimate goal is for customers to become an advocate, proponent, supporter and cheerleader for the business. Helping customers become an advocate or voice to others is a critical part of reputation building. Many “buy” decisions are made based on online product and company reviews from actual users and customers.

With that in mind, we have to evaluate and decide if a particular customer is in best interest of our business. Bad customers are ones that are abusive to staff, make unreasonable demands, and often complain on social media when they are not met. Often, the entire staff knows this customer, and they cause a disruption in the natural flow of business. If the cost of dealing with a bad customer becomes more than the sales that are being generated, it may be time to suggest alternative avenues for the customer. In order to protect the reputation of the business, we need an exit plan for ending relationships with bad customers. We recommend creating templates and scripts to help staff be effective.

There are a few customers that we simply cannot afford to deal with any longer. We offer discounts, free services and other concessions, only to find they ask for more. They sometimes stop payment, and report a complaint about the business on social media, with watchdog organizations, and complaint websites. If the level of bad reaches swearing and personal intimidation, that behavior should be a clear policy violation, a no go and non-starter. Bad, as in, not happy with product or service, is a sign that there needs to be an investigation into the noted issues with the product or service.

As soon as a bad customer becomes evident, take steps to end the relationship. Briefly re-cap the situation and history of the relationship. Put the burden on you, apologize, and try to make the customer as happy as possible, understanding that complete satisfaction is impossible with some customers. Offer a refund. The goal is to part ways with the least drama as possible.  Why not recommend a competitor? Suggest other businesses that may be able to provide the product or service. Some people will never be made whole. Most difficult people treat everyone in the same manner. Let them distract someone else, while you focus on profitable transactions. Bear in mind that your delicate kiss-off will also be noted on social media, and it might just drive off other like-minded individuals.

Here is the rub. We have found that most bad customers have been created by the business, via policies or untrained staff. How, you ask? Well, it was unintentional of course, but some policies may encourage bad behavior. Staff that is not trained or not empowered to resolve customer complaints may be creating bad customers.

When we research and dig deeper into the situation, including what, and how, the issue accelerated to the level of firing a customer, we want to determine how it built and rose to this truly unwanted level, involving excess time and resource wasting, and unintentional consequences. We recommend, in most cases, not simply offering a discount or coupons as a remedy to solve a customer complaint, but instead engaging in objective self-examination to determine the circumstances that enable death-spiral levels of customer dissatisfaction.

Bottom line, most customers are not bad at the start of the business relationship We found many times that bad customers have been created by bad customer service policies, or inadequate staff training policies. A single situation handled badly, that is ignored and not addressed by the business, can ignite into an irreconcilable lose-lose situation. A situation can be as small as a failure to say thanks, or to invite a customer to come again. The most damaging situations are customer service errors, based on a process and not on an emotion. In this era of online shopping, apps and email/text communications, we find the elimination of human contact is making bad customers the norm. Businesses that have eliminated human contact, intentionally or unintentionally, are hiding behind the technology, and often create a new class of bad customers. As we learned from feedback forums, anonymous automated ordering systems that lack the human touch invite rude and belligerent behavior.

Sometimes, bad happens. When it does, is there a clear path to the “contact us” links on your Web site, and are the links current, including business mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses? The goal is to make conflict resolution accessible to your customers. It is no longer sufficient to obscure contact information in the hope the customer will simply go away. All too often, they post profusely and negatively on their way out, creating a tsunami effect of orders not placed that you cannot measure or even be aware of.

Last modified on Monday, 15 February 2016 14:13
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