Customer Experience News & Trends

How to get out of 7 sticky customer situations

You don’t have to work with customers long to realize there will always be some sticky situations around the corner. You may never be able to anticipate those events, but this will help you deal with them.

You might categorize some situations under complex, others under uncomfortable and even some under bizarre. But no matter how you look at them, if you work with customers in some capacity, you will likely face situations that need special care.

Here are seven of them and smart tips from experts and expert-practitioners on how to handle them and salvage the customer experience, and relationship.

1. Customer wants to be your ‘friend’

facebookSocial media has caused the lines to blur between the professional and personal world. Customer experience professionals are somewhat to blame, too: We stay connected with customers through email, smartphones and social media all the time. So it’s not a surprise that customers might try to be friends with us on Facebook.

So what do you do when a customer sends you a friend request on Facebook?

“I’d consider creating a second Facebook page with less personal information and for business associates. If I kept just one page, I’d only post items that I would share with colleagues face-to-face,” says Heather LaRocca, call center supervisor at Ball Horticulture Co. in West Chicago, IL. “It’s a tough decision – really, do your business associates need to see your vacation photos? In my case, I use two accounts so I can connect with colleagues and customers, and family and friends, while maintaining a separation between business and personal life.”

Another approach, suggested by Chuck Metten, customer service & warranty manager at Atlas Machine & Supply, Inc., Louisville, KY: Accept the friend requests, using Facebook for personal socializing and LinkedIn for business connections. Decide which network fits which customer based on the relationship you have.

“Both networks can be used to connect with customers in more ways than just business, and can make for long relationships. It’s also a way to connect with the younger age group in today’s market. There’s a time and place for each one,” says Metten.

2. Your mistake affected a major customer

133428109Mistakes happen. But they hurt more when they’re big and involve major, long-time customers. Sales reps often can’t afford to offend their biggest clients. And customer service pros don’t want to have to deal with angry customers at all.

So how do you respond when major customers are affected by a mistake on your end?

“First and foremost, we need to investigate how this situation occurred, take measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and keep the customer in the loop every step of the way,” says Billy Murphy, sales manager at Charleston Rubber & Gasket, Charleston, SC. If possible, you may want to use this situation as a way to earn additional trust – as long as you assure the customer you’ve taken the appropriate measures so that it will never happen again.”

To make sure you rebound the right way,  John St. John, sales manager at Games People Play Golf in Beaumont, TX, says he’d empathize with the customer and apologize, and ask him, “What can I do to make this right?”

“I just start suggesting ways to compensate for the mistake, I run the risk of either under-offering or over-offering. If I under-offer, he may still end up being dissatisfied. If I over-offer, I could wind up giving away the whole farm when I don’t have to. This way, I leave the ball in the customer’s court so I can gauge his expectations and respond accordingly,” says St. John.

3. Customers are cursing you on social media

153999235Try this: Type your company name or flagship product into a Google search, then follow it with “stinks,” “sucks” or “hate.” Unfortunately, you’ll likely find some posts in social media or blogs that have less-than-flattering remarks.

Or perhaps you already have some kind of social media monitoring tools and staff watching for and responding to bad word-of-mouth.

So how should you react when customers rant on social media (either after they’ve tried to get help from your company or without ever trying)?

Try one of these two approaches:

See what else is said about you without words like “sucks,” stinks,” and “hate” so you can see positive comments that were posted, too. Then follow through with the people who posted legit complaints and help them, plus thank those who had good things to say, suggests Gayle Vadala, office manager at Abbott and Mills in Newburgh, NY.

This is a real scenario these days, and we’d want to respond to negative and positive posts,” says Vadala.

Another approach: Gather all of the negative feedback, analyze it for consistent issues or “one-offs,” and use it to improve. That’s what Tom Dalton, relationship coordinator manager, Healthfirst in New York does.

I’d even try to use the squeakiest wheels as allies, giving them more access to reps. I’d tweak service based on the feedback to reduce the main complaints. With new processes around the areas that needed it most, we’d have a stronger foundation to think of new ways to better the customer experience.”

4. Big customer wants more

118448704Major customers often know that they’re all that. Some even expect special treatment because of their status. Truth is, they often deserve it. As long as you treat all customers well, it’s OK to treat some better.

But what happens when a big customer doesn’t think she’s getting her due? How do handle her higher demands to maintain the special relationship?

“I’d assign a back-up to help if the primary contact couldn’t help,” says Dennis Stienecker, general manager at Minster Machine Co. in Minster, OH. “I’d work to uncover issues and new preferences.”

Stienecker suggests staying ahead of the expectations. “As the biggest customer, she deserves extra attention.”

Or you might go this route: Note all of her requests and put them in an order to identify what “We can do” and what “We don’t want to do,” suggests Dalton. “I’d tell her now we value her business and will do everything we can to make her happy. Then I’d evaluate each request, offer what we can do and come to an agreement.

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