We’ve all had bad customers experiences. A product broke prematurely, or we may have encountered inexperienced salespeople, repair delays … the list goes on. And those experiences stick with us. Customers are more likely to remember a negative experience than a positive one, which makes loyalty a lot harder to come by these days. That’s why when the opportunity presents itself to win over a customer, it should always be taken with enthusiasm. Sometimes that opportunity comes in the form of a customer complaint. Whether product quality falls short, the customer experience is poor or a brand interaction doesn’t meet expectations, it’s an opening to make improvements and earn loyalty.
Considering it’s six times more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to keep existing ones, every effort to build a loyal customer base is well worth it. Adding further evidence, the average conversion rate (actual sales) from promotions sent to new customers is less than 1%. These are just a few statistics that prove it’s good business sense to make concerted efforts to satisfy customers.
There are many ways to build customer loyalty. We’ve created owner magazines and e-newsletters to keep the lines of communication open and inform customers about what companies are doing for them. We’ve also developed owner communities through special events, content marketing and social media.
But sometimes the most significant opportunity to earn loyalty is when a customer is unhappy.
In fact, a dissatisfied customer who is made satisfied is more loyal than a customer who never had an issue in the first place. Turning that dissatisfaction around requires taking responsibility even when you don’t believe it’s the fault of your company, your product or your department.
Refusing to take responsibility for any reason tells the customer one thing, “I don’t care about you or your business.”
Rather than seeing a complaint as strictly a negative, companies should thank customers for their feedback and insights. That’s because only 4%t of dissatisfied customers complain. The other 96% just go away, taking their business with them. So while complaining customers may not be the most pleasant people to deal with, they’re actually providing a golden opportunity to resolve the issue and make them customers for life.
Honesty and transparency are crucial when addressing customer complaints and dissatisfaction. When the Tesla Model 3 was just launching, customers were disappointed by a delay in their delivery dates. The company was upfront about its manufacturing issues, which were causing the delays. Some owners even received personal responses and updates from Elon Musk himself. By keeping customers updated, Tesla avoided what could have been a very negative start to the owner experience.
When it comes to turning a dissatisfied customer into satisfied one, there are a few key steps that have to happen. An apology is a good place to start. Again, even if there’s a feeling that someone else is to blame for the issue, taking responsibility is huge to a customer. Next, customers are looking for opportunities to voice their concerns, so listen and try to identify with their issue. Then restore their trust by fixing the problem to the customer’s and the company’s satisfaction. While that helps resolve the issue, what most customers want is reassurance that some action has been taken so the problem won’t happen again. Lastly, a follow up is always a good idea to ensure the issue has been fully resolved. It’s a great recipe for satisfying customers and growing their loyalty.
Considering that customer loyalty can be worth 10 times as much as a single purchase, it’s best to take advantage of every opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one. Going beyond to take care of customers when things go wrong builds lifetime loyalty and solidify their future success.
BARRY LABOV, a two-time Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year and inductee into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, is founder, president and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training in Fort Wayne. He has written and co-authored more than a dozen business books and is a regular columnist in business publications.