As someone who works for a company that is typically in the role of a vendor, it was an interesting twist to find myself across the table from one of our vendors. It actually was a great experience for me as it gave me a renewed perspective on what it’s like on the other side. The timing was even better for me because right before the meeting, I happened to read this great post by Steve Curtain the customer service guru.
Steve talks about the good being the enemy of the best and how many companies are content to let good (or adequate) service be their standard. This gets them lukewarm customers that jump ship at the drop of a hat. Few companies, on the other hand, will go out of their way to consistently give the best customer service and this results in loyal customers that promote the company to others.
I think that when the relationship is in trouble is one the best opportunities to show your customer what kind of service is your standard. Maybe it will go down like this:
You: I’m sorry to hear that you’re not happy with our product/service/As-Seen-On-TV Ab-cerciser, Mr. Soares. Can you tell me about the problem?
Customer: Yes, I’ve written out 41 points of why I’m not happy with your company. Shall I read them to you?
You: Sure let’s take them one by one, and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong not to like us. Ready go.
Have you ever had to witness something like this? It’s painful. How your customer feels is FAR more than the sum of the 41 points he has listed out. It’s those feelings you have to address above all and make sure that the other person knows you GET them, really and truly understand where they are coming from, and that you will make it right.
What if the conversation started like this:
You: I am glad that you let me know about your problems with our company, Mr. Soares. Can you tell me some more details so we can decide on how we’re going to make the situation better?
Customer: It boils down to the fact that I was expecting X and all I see is Y. I really NEED it to be like X.
You: I am very sorry about that. I know that we can get you to where you need to be. What if we…
Don’t believe me? Try it on your next disgruntled customer. If they don’t turn into a promoter for you, I’ll send you a full refund, no questions asked.