Winning Back Unhappy Customers

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

Since the above is true, it is a very wise business move to make it a habit of winning back unhappy customers. Of course, the ideal situation would be to never have any unhappy customers. Everyone makes mistakes – human error is inevitable. Businesses get caught up in various activities and strategies and ultimately the overall quality of the business suffers resulting in lower customer service standards. Internal confusion and chaos often leads to strife and tensions between members of the company and would most certainly reflect in the treatment of the customers which would be less than satisfactory. The tragic part is that one disgruntled customer will talk to others about the ‘treatment’ received and could potentially lead to a tidal wave of negativity. Winning back unhappy customers then gets tougher by the day.

Companies react differently to ‘threats’ from customers regarding leaving them. When customers plan to ‘walk away’ strangely some companies don’t react at all while some ridiculously send an exit survey that seems like a rote activity with no meaning. The best strategy to deal with such customers is to try and win them back and also understand and learn from the feedback they provide.
What do you do when a customer threatens to leave your product or service? Some companies don’t respond at all, while others reply with an exit survey. But for early-stage companies, trying to win them back—and learn from their feedback—is often a better strategy. Companies that are really keen on winning back unhappy customers must put in play some ‘winning’ strategies that may help customers reconsider their decision and not leave your company.

– Winning back unhappy customers means that companies must let go of what they think they are doing right and view the situation from the customer’s point of view. Just like every relationship, this relationship will also work right and become better if things can be viewed from the other person’s angle. Understand truly, if you were the customer, then what would make you happy in the situation. Then go ahead and implement that after discussing with the unhappy customer.

– Many times what is required to make the customer happy again and retain them may be quite an expensive proposition and may seem overly done. However, to avoid long term losses and the prospect of losing more than one customer, a one-time expense seems prudent and will be a move towards winning back unhappy customers. Unhappy customers have the potential to dent, sometimes irreversibly, the reputation of companies and some individuals within the companies. A single negative comment over social media sites is seen by millions of people and a company could end up losing potential business as well. Take the risk, put yourself out there for your customers – they will reward you manifold. They become brand ambassadors for your business, tell their friends and associates and share their experiences with everyone and anyone. Stand firm to protect your reputation and this steadfastness will get across to customers.

– The first and most important step in the ‘action plan’ of winning back unhappy customers is communication. Put down in writing action steps with deadline dates. Discuss these with the customer to let them see that your company is actively committed to making things better and putting steps in place to mitigate the problem. Offer a full refund if these steps seem insufficient to the customer.

– As a company you know that you have made a mistake and a service lapse has occurred. The best way towards winning back unhappy customers is to accept the mistake. Apologize for the error, take ownership and do not offer excuses. The more open and transparent a company is in their dealings, the better chance they have of keeping customers happy. Being honest and admitting that your company messed up with inspire confidence in the customer and are more likely to become loyal than if the service lapse had not occurred. Treat each mess up as an opportunity to get even better and wow your customers.

– If you dig deep, unhappy customers are sometime impatient customers. The impatience may arise from the fact that they probably do not know where your company is headed or what the product roadmap looks like. Talk to the customers let them in on how the product will look and what the expected timelines are. When they can see that the product is moving towards being more customized and useful for them, they are most likely to remain with the company.

– While retaining customers is important, it is vital that companies do not betray signs of desperation. Empathy yes, but desperation no. When companies can portray unfeigned empathy, the customer could well reassess their decision to walk away. However, desperation simply works to undo any good the company may have done.

– To demonstrate value and increased credibility, companies must strive to help at least their regular customers with problems that are perhaps outside their scope or periphery of operation. Customers begin to see such companies not just as business partners but also allies on whom they can depend. A great way to keep unhappiness at bay!

– In the efforts to provide service, gain new business and customers and continue strategizing, companies tend to forget that customers want to feel appreciated. Thanking them on different occasions, sending out tokens of appreciation on festivals, applauding them on their achievements are ways to show your customers that you care and appreciate their business. These efforts are certainly easier than winning back unhappy customers.

– Every customer experience and interaction must reflect that your customer has your undivided attention. Listen actively, be polite, build a rapport, address them by name and provide speedy and effective answers. One great interaction is not enough to gain a customer’s appreciation and trust, but a single interaction is more than enough to make a happy customer, unhappy and then starts the uphill task of winning back unhappy customers.

– Despite technologically advances, applications and smart devices, customers still crave and expect the human touch. Your front-ending customer service staff is the face of your brand and company. Treat them right and encourage them to treat customers with respect and empathy. Having an option of a live chat online is also a great way to keep the human contact, intact! Anyone works and responds better to people they like and have a happy relationship with.

– If a customer expresses dissatisfaction, do not wait to communicate via messages. Ensure that someone responsible calls up the customer to understand exactly what the issue is and what the company can do alleviate it. The person calling the customer must have the empowerment to make spot decisions like offering discounts, refunds or any fast track solution that would satisfy the customer and get them to stay.

– Ensure that your customers know where your company’s strengths lie and how your offerings and customer service is better than any competitor. Continually promote your strengths making it easier for your customer to see value in remaining associated with you and be ready to give you another chance even if there is a service lapse. It is much easier to get across to customers who know the value add you bring and how much of their effort you save.

Practicing and keeping up these methods of winning back unhappy customers are not always easy and may not even yield the desired results if after you have mastered them. When customers get unhappy anything you say will be seen as an excuse but if you genuinely are concerned about the customers and your business, you will leave no stone unturned and will manage tough situations. Remain enthusiastic, empathetic and positive – these will reflect in your dealings with the customers and keep them happy.

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