Nov 2, 2020 • Podcast

How do I repair a customer relationship after a bad experience?

Paul provides tips to turn a bad experience into customer loyalty.

Show Notes

If you’ve been in sales long enough, you’re bound to tick off a customer.

“These service failures are actually….”

How can a customer become more loyal when we screw up?

“Nothing frustrates customers more than working with a salesperson that….”

Go on a deep-dive to figure out what happened.

“They [customers] have to feel comfortable in knowing that you’re going to take care of any future issues.”

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How do I repair a customer relationship after a bad experience?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about rebuilding a relationship with customers if they’ve had a bad experience. This question came to me, actually, via LinkedIn. That’s another way you can submit questions. Go ahead and send me a message. You can find me, Paul Reilly, on LinkedIn. This question came from a salesperson I recently did some training with, and the salesperson wants to know how you can rekindle or rebuild a relationship with a customer if that customer had a bad experience with your company in the past. That’s the question we’re going to answer today.

Before we get into that, though, a quick shout-out to Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. If you’ve ever thought about starting a podcast, again, now is the time to take action. I know many of you are working from home. You might have more time on your hands. You can run a podcast from anywhere. Now that you have time on your side, why don’t you take that chance? Connect with your audience at a deeper level. Connect with your customers at a deeper level. If you have an idea, just a seed of an idea, reach out to Andrea and her team. They do a wonderful job of helping you launch the podcast. There’s going to be a link to her website on this episode’s webpage. Go ahead and check it out.

Also pick up your latest edition of Value-Added Selling. In Value-Added Selling, we have a whole chapter dedicated to relationship building. In fact, one of our surveys that we did when we were launching Value-Added Selling focused on the power of relationships as it relates to price. We actually asked buyers in two separate studies: Why would you choose one supplier over another (or one partner over another)? And relationship with the salesperson ranked higher than price. Very powerful stuff. Pick up your edition of Value-Added Selling. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapters; wherever you get your books. Check it out.

All right, folks, let’s get into that question: How do you repair or rebuild a relationship after the customer’s had a bad experience with your company? This is a common challenge. We have all been there in sales. If you’ve been in sales long enough, you’re bound to tick off a customer. Your company is bound to tick them off. It just happens. Nobody is 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. Customers know that. They realize that. In fact, many of them have probably experienced the same challenge with their customers, where they’ve screwed up or messed up, and now, they’ve got to repair that relationship.

As we answered this question, we need to change the way we’ve view these bad experiences. And here’s what I mean by that. Yeah, we don’t want to tick off our customers. We feel bad when we let them down. But, we’ve got to remember, these service failures are actually opportunities. They’re opportunities for us to build loyalty for our customers. So, my message to the salesperson— first and foremost, don’t get too frustrated by it. Instead of viewing this as a negative thing, view this as a positive way to build loyalty with this customer.

Here’s why I say it’s an opportunity to build loyalty. There’s a great book called Strategic Customer Service. It’s written by a guy named John Goodman. Not the “Roseanne” John Goodman; different John Goodman altogether. I think he recently added a new edition of this book. But any way, it’s a great book. If you ever want to learn more about customer service and ways to strategically align with your customers to serve them better, wonderful book for that. Here’s what John Goodman’s research shows. When a customer complains and the customer is actually satisfied by the resolution of that complaint, they actually become 30 percent more loyal to you than if they never had the complaint at all.

So, you think about that. It’s almost a paradoxical thought. How could a customer become more loyal to us when we screw up? Well, here’s the reality. Again, customers know things are going to happen. Stuff happens that’s out of your control. Stuff happens that’s just the result of doing business. But if they believe you’re there for them, that you’re going to support them, they’re going to continue to reward you with more loyalty. So, my message for the salesperson is, number one: view this as an opportunity to build loyalty.

With that being said, let’s get into how to actually address it. First things first, we have to address and acknowledge their concern. That’s the first step in rebuilding that relationship. We can’t just pretend nothing is wrong. We just can’t pretend that it’s not a big deal. We have to acknowledge it and we have to address their concern. Okay? And, that could be as simple as just saying a statement like this: I understand that we messed up. I understand that this is an issue. I understand that this has damaged part of your business. I understand the implications of this. That simple phrase, I understand, it lets the customer know we hear them, that we acknowledge them.

The next thing we want to do, though, is we want to take ownership. Taking ownership means that we admit that it is our fault. Nothing frustrates customers more [than] when they’re working with an organization or a salesperson that refuses to take ownership of a problem. You might not have caused it, but it is your problem to fix. And even if it was from a previous salesperson or a previous experience, whatever it might’ve been, you have to be able to take ownership and say, “You know what, we’re going to find a way to fix it.” So, take ownership of that complaint. Take ownership of the previous bad experience, whatever it might be.

Number three, we have to provide a tangible resolution to their concern. This is critical. When we’re meeting with a customer and we’re made aware of a previous bad experience, again, you’ve got to acknowledge it, you’ve got to take ownership of it, and then you’ve got to figure out a way to fix it. That means, if a customer calls you and says, “Hey, I know you’ve been stopping by our office, but I’ve got to tell you, we’ve had bad experiences with your company in the past,” you want to acknowledge that. You want to maybe probe a little bit, ask a few questions, figure out what’s going on. Take ownership of it. And then, you want to tell them, “I’m going to do some research. I’m going to figure out a way how we can fix this.”

Let’s say, maybe your company missed a shipment beforehand, or let’s say your company ran out of stock of one of their core items that they need. Whatever the issue is, you need to go on a deep dive within your organization to figure out why it happened, and also, how you’re going to fix it moving forward. And you have to provide the customer with a detailed plan of attack. They have to feel comfortable in knowing that you’re going to take care of any future issues.

I know that sounds, maybe, a little simple. And it is. That’s all you need to do is you need to acknowledge their concern; you need to take ownership of the problem, and then you need to provide a tangible resolution. You need to take action and put together a plan to give them some reassurance that it’s not going to happen again.

Now, a couple of add-on tips—some things that can also help. When you are putting together a plan of attack, you also maybe want to get higher-level decision makers involved within your organization. Let’s say, for example, there were some logistical issues—maybe missed shipments, whatever it might be. Get your VP of production involved, or ask that they get involved, and have them share a couple of thoughts. They can type it up in an email; they can put together just a note that says, “I understand this is an issue. Here’s what we’re going to do to fix it.” Getting more people involved at higher levels within your organization is going to show a commitment to fixing the problem. When your customer sees that information, they’re going to be more willing to move forward than they were before.

So get those higher-level decision makers involved. Get other people involved as well. When you can demonstrate that other people are aware of the issue and the problem, it shows that you’re committed to fixing it, but, it’s also a sign of support throughout your organization. That’s what we’re going for.

Make it a big day.

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