“It is so much easier to be nice, to be respectful, to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to understand how you might help them before they ask for help, than it is to try to mend a broken customer relationship.” – Mark Cuban
Relationships are very fragile and a simple mistake or misunderstanding can potentially ruin them for good. In the business world, broken customer relationships can wreak havoc on a company if not mended in time. Despite best efforts, there would be many occasions and reasons that could result in broken customer relationships – shoddy customer service, poor products, unresponsive employees and a host of other reasons. Whatever the reason and whoever is responsible for the mess up, the important thing would be to swing into action to mend the broken customer relationships, lest it snowballs into a bigger issue. The fact is one disgruntled customer can let thousands of others know of their poor experiences with a single comment posted via social media sites and by telling their friends and associates of the treatment meted out to them. In the business world, it is essential that customers like and trust your company since they have so many choices and options they would not stay with a company that caused them discomfort.
As the quote says, it is better to prevent broken customer relationships than to find ways to fix it. Most of the time there is no guarantee that your efforts towards mending will bear any fruit, since with so many options and the advances in technology, customer loyalty and appreciation are ephemeral. Companies must focus on maintaining high standards of service and product quality and to ensure that employees help in every way, companies must first ensure employee engagement and satisfaction. Highly engaged employees would do their best for the customers and even if something were to go wrong, they would do whatever it takes to mend the broken customer relationships. There are a number of ways by which to ensure that broken customer relationships are mended. What steps does your company take to make this happen?
The most important and crucial step in mending broken customer relationships is to own up to the mistake and take complete responsibility for the breakdown. Owning up to an error and genuinely apologizing will reflect well on your company’s attitude and culture. It will show your customers that the company is honest, committed to customers and willing to make amends through the best possible solutions. Such an attitude of service on the part of the company eliminates the blame game, reduces the time lapse between the problem and the resolution and serves to ensure that the annoyed customer does not make the error public, which could effectively ruin your company’s relationship with other customers too.
Doing everything required to mend broken customer relationships will show case your company’s sense of responsibility, agility and openness to change and feedback. Ensure that while making amends, your company does not hide any facts and information from the customer – let them know exactly what your company plans to do to alleviate the issue for good. When a business is transparent, customers are more likely to trust and the company’s credibility in the market will enhance. Honesty and reliability are the top two traits that customers look for in a company, even in the face of a problem.
Post owning up and apologizing, the next most important step would be to take action. This would be a two-fold process – curb any further damage and action to make amends for the wrong done. The smallest problem can cause bigger issues if not handled well and immediately and could increase the annoyance of the customer. Ensure that your support teams and managers are well trained and properly equipped to deal with such situations and that your company has robust strategies in place to deal with any kind of problems. It is crucial to remember that even the smallest problem could lead to a more intense and complex situation for your company and the customers. In certain industries, the slightest delays in responses and actions could result to huge losses in terms of costs and relationships, both for the company and the customer’s business.
When a mistake occurs, there are often times when the damage may be irreversible. However, offering several alternatives and solutions would at least help to ease the discomfort and loss for the customer. For your company, it could mean mending broken customer relationships and saving itself from gaining a bad reputation and losing other existing customers and or prospective ones. Ensure that everyone in the organization understands the extent and kind of solutions that the company is equipped to provide – over promising and under delivering in such situations could potentially ruin the business for good. The customer facing staff must be empowered to make spot decisions to help soothe the situation and the customer, until a permanent and more appropriate solution can be offered.
The value of a genuine and sincere apology cannot be overemphasized and underestimated. A heartfelt apology is possibly the most crucial and impactful of the ways to mending broken customer relationships. There would be times when the problem could have occurred due to the customer’s fault but by apologizing, your company, will gain favour with the customer and display its commitment to undo the unpleasant incident. ‘Showing’ an apology does not necessarily have to over the top and expensive – a handwritten note from the top person in the company accompanied by a thoughtful gift should add weight to the apology, albeit when done immediately. This would display the company’s commitment to make things better and would make the customer feel more amenable to mending the broken relationship. A good apology would add a personal touch to the relationship and help to heal it faster.
Post making amends and extending an apology, a company can embark upon entering into a dialogue with the customer. By asking for advice and feedback from customer on how to resolve the situation and prevent future occurrences, a company puts them in the ‘driver’s seat’. By giving them such a feeling of control, your company would be in a better position to amend broken customer relationships and largely prevent future damage. The customers know exactly what they want and need – so it will not be far-fetched to get them in to suggest solutions and get their advice on what would work best. Customers love to feel important and allowing them to voice their opinion goes a long way in making them feel so. Conversely, keeping customers out of the resolution process could give them the feeling that your company is ignoring them and is not open to suggestions and feedback – adding further problems to an already broken relationship. A senior person from the company must be responsible for conveying the company’s commitment and letting customers know what the company is planning to do in order to mend broken customer relationships and ensure least possible damage.
As mentioned, the best way for companies would be to keep their relationships with customers safe by providing the best in service and product quality. Ensure that communication is regular and consistent and never assume that broken customer relationships are beyond repair. It may not be possible to change the ‘personality’ of your customers, but by understanding them well, a company can reduce the possible problems that could lead to broken customer relationships.