Dealing with unsatisfied customers

An opportinity to do it right...this time

The majority of customers who are not satisfied with the service they have received, simply walk away from the establishment. They never give an opportunity for the establishment to correct or improve the expected service level. This is wrong in two levels: 

1. The establishment does not learn from the dissapointment. This means that, more than likely, they will continue the behaviors that led to the dissapointment and other customers will also suffer the same fate.   

2. The customer goes home and tells between 8-12 of his family, friends, and neighbors. They, not wanting to deal with a potential disappointment, avoid that establishment as well. Maybe this is well deserved by the establishment. Maybe this is nature's way of exercising 'natural selection' in the business world. Another business eventually closing its doors. So what?

The answer may be obvious...The business should have done a better job of getting to know its customers and their expectations. The employees should have done the same. Management should have practiced 'getting customer feedback' strategies to better assess its delivery of products/services.

As a manager, I encourage customers to let me know if all is well. I conduct many 'exit-interviews' with customers to ensure that their questions and needs have been met on this visit. By doing so, they come to me when something goes wrong. I welcome this since it gives me an opportunity to correct whatever went wrong, and by learning about it to use it in future training sessions with the store's staff.

The most common reasons for customers being unsatisfied are: 

  • Lack of communication. Customers want to stay in the loop. Even when something goes wrong, customers are willing to work with us provided that they stay informed of what is happening; whether a delivery is late, a product did not make it on time or a service call must be postponed because of a part that is not available. Customers do not, generally, have a really high expectation. Remember, as consumers, we are used to things-going-wrong all the time. Our tolerance for less than standard service is very high. Constant communication will usually do it!
  • Lack of empathy. Customers tell me that their disappointment is sometimes caused because the sales or customer service representative did not 'hear' or 'understand' them and their needs. The business link web page of the british government describes the best way to handle a customer complaint:
    • listening sympathetically to establish the details of the complaint
    • recording the details together with relevant material, such as a sales receipt or damaged goods
    • offering rectification - whether by repair, replacement or refund
    • appropriate follow-up action, such as a letter of apology or a phone call to make sure that the problem has been made good

On to Benefits and Risks