Customer Experience News & Trends

Helping your salespeople recover after a major mistake

No matter how angry or upset they are, customers know that mistakes are bound to happen. What they’re watching for is how your salespeople handle the the problem.

What wins back customers:

  • Do whatever it takes to fix it. The future business you stand to make or lose almost always outweighs the cost of dealing with the 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 is something you could have done which would have averted the problem.
  • 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 people expect a “not my fault” response. 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. 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 will usually help your customer do the same. Use the opportunity to close ranks with your client as you work together toward a solution. Your ability to keep your composure and head will rule the day
  • Run interference. No matter how the solution plays itself out, make sure that you are the key person in its resolution. Don’t refer the customer to people within your company who may add fire to the problem.
  • Communicate. Stay in close touch with the client. Be reassuring if you can, but 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 other departments will probably be asking questions.
  • Ask what the customer wants. Some customers know exactly what they want to solve the problem and will tell you. If their requests are reasonable, the problem may pass quickly. The dangerous part of using this technique is that they may ask for things that are unreasonable. Think about your customer carefully before asking this question.
  • Use post-problem bonding. If you can resolve the problem to everyone’s satisfaction, you may even 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 How to Win & Keep Big Customers by Steve Kaplan (Bard Press). Mr. Kaplan is 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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