“Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem.”
~Alan Weiss, Author “Million Dollar Consulting”
Sorry to break this to you, but you’re not perfect. Nor am I, or anyone I know. Or any business, large or small, I’ve frequented over the years. Some have come close, but many have really dropped the ball.
But the good news is, if you play your cards right, you can make money and add dollars to your bottom line by not being perfect. At least when it comes to your business.
But there is a catch. You have to want to improve and not stay stagnate of course, but the number one thing you will have to do to increase your profits is…drum roll please… listen. That’s right, you’ll have to listen. Listen to your customers, as well as your employees. A novel concept, I know.
For today, let’s talk about listening to your customers. There is so much opportunity for growth, just by listening to what they have to say. A typical business will hear from just 4% of their dissatisfied customers, so be grateful when they want to share with you. A few statistics (don’t fall asleep, just a few!):
- 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, but only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet those expectations. (Forbes)
- A customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service related vs. price or product related. (Bain & Co.)
- 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again (Lee Resources)
The bottom line: The only way to make sure your customers will come back is to make sure they leave happy. If there is a problem (remember, your business is not perfect, there will always be problems), then making sure your customers tell you about it is pure gold! Most unhappy customers will just leave and never return. So if there is an opportunity to find out about a problem, jump at the chance. Was it something on your web site? Or maybe no one returned their call or email. Did the product or service fail? When they come to you…listen! It generally takes about 2 minutes for a customer to get something off their chest, so give them that 2 minutes. Do not interrupt, no matter how bad you want to. You’ll make the situation worse by reinforcing the fact you’re not willing to listen.
After you have heard the problem or situation, now what? Follow these simple steps to deliver more than perfect service:
- Acknowledge the wrong and apologize. A simple apology goes a long way to making it right. Be sincere and look them in the eye.
- Make sure you understand the problem and take ownership. This is not the time for the blame game.
- Discuss ways you will be able to fix the problem. The majority of the time it is a simple fix. If you are not able to make it right, you need to be honest and let the customer know. Stalling is not an acceptable practice.
- Once the situation has been corrected, follow up with a phone call, hand written note or personal email. Offer some sort of compensation if the situation warrants it. Follow up and follow through.
- Bonus Tip: Use the customer’s name, it is the sweetest sound, and helps build a relationship.
While I realize some problems and complaints will need more of your attention, by making sure you include your customers in the solution, and not alienating them when they come to you with problems, your bottom line will grow. My final statistic: Resolve a complaint in the customers favor (in a timely manner), and they will do business with you again 70% of the time (Lee Resources). Customers want fast service, but they will gladly pay more for excellent service. They will become more loyal knowing that you care enough to fix their problems. Which will lead to more repeat business and more referrals. And isn’t that the bottom line?