Customer Experience News & Trends

10 ways to recover from a major mistake

No matter how angry or upset they are, customers know that occasional mistakes are bound to happen. And what they’re watching for is how you handle them.

Here are the 10 best ways to recover from mistakes and retain customers:

  • Do whatever it takes to fix the problem. The future business you stand to make or lose from a customer almost always outweighs the cost of resolving his or her immediate crisis.
  • Take responsibility, no matter whose fault it was. You can take part of the blame, but never none of it. In almost every crisis there’s something you could’ve done that would’ve averted the problem. And even when there wasn’t, there’s nothing to gain from placing blame on the customer.
  • Act swiftly and effectively. Don’t just hope the problem will go away by itself. Sometimes people just want to vent their anger and be heard, and swift action will often put out the fire. Be a good ear, express concern for the customer’s situation, and then try to close off the issue. Most customers expect an “it’s not my fault” response. Instead of giving one, try a simple apology.
  • Step in and take charge. Don’t rely on someone else in your company to manage it competently. Everyone likes to deal with stand-up people, and customers are no different. True character surfaces under duress. Use the crisis to prove yourself.
  • Don’t assign blame to co-workers. Finger-pointing can only diminish you in the eyes of the customer. The customer is more interested in how the crisis will be resolved than in who caused the problem.
  • Stay calm. Deal with the crisis in ways that will make you friends, not enemies, with people within your own company. Maintain your poise and your sense of humor. It’ll usually help your customer do the same. Use the opportunity to grow closer to the customer by working together to find a solution. Your ability to keep your composure and lead will rule the day.
  • Be the point person. No matter how the solution to the problem plays itself out, make sure that you are the key to its resolution. Don’t refer the customer to people within your company who may add fire to the problem.
  • Communicate often. Stay in close touch with the client. Be reassuring if you can, and don’t make excuses or try to cover up. Once your customer becomes aware of the crisis, the worst thing you can do is not keep him or her fully informed. Understand that the customer’s boss and colleagues will probably be asking them questions. Help customers come up with answers.
  • Ask what the customer wants. Some customers know exactly what they want to solve the problem and will tell you what that is. If their requests are reasonable, the problem may pass quickly. The dangerous part of using this technique is they may ask for things that are unreasonable. So think about each customer carefully before asking this question, and try to predict what they may ask for.
  • Use post-problem bonding. If you can resolve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction, you may strengthen your relationship with the customer. The sunny afterglow of solving a tough problem together may be a time to talk about increasing business.

Adapted from the book “How to Win & Keep Big Customers,” by Steve Kaplan, founder of The Difference Maker, Inc., which provides a wide range of business tools to help companies of all sizes succeed.

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