Pamela Schuck

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:36

The difficult customer

Every business has customers from hell. If you were really honest, you might admit that you or your company is someone else's customer from hell. I know I can be.

When you are the difficult customer, ask yourself, "Why am I being this way? What caused me to be so aggravated?"

Sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with the business the hellish behavior is directed toward. Some reasons are particular to the individual and what is going on with his or her personal or business situation and you just become the target.

You might be upset about something else and carry that anger into a situation with you, or you are overtired, stressed and frustrated. These things are beyond the service providers' control -- but you should always be empathetic and understanding.

But what about the ones who turn into the customers from hell because your business has put them through hell and now they are fighting back?

Why do your customers get upset?

  • You or someone in the organization promised something that was not delivered.

    It is important to look at the reliability factor of service and understand what promises we are making. Someone was supposed to get back to the customer and didn't; promised delivery by a certain date and didn't deliver; promised action and didn't follow through. Customers get upset if you don't keep your promises, and if it happens often or with a critical need, the customer turns into a difficult person.

  • You or someone in the organization was indifferent, rude or discourteous.

    Many times, rudeness is unintentional. We try to make light or funny statements that come across as rude. Treat every customer as you would a special family member.

    When your customers are doing business with you, their expectation is that you will know the value of a customer to your business. Being responsive is critical to your customers' expectations.

  • They feel someone has conveyed an unpleasant attitude toward them.

    Perhaps the customer was surly or treated you poorly. That is no excuse for you to react unprofessionally. Every customer deserves to be treated with a positive attitude that reflects that you know the importance of customers. A bad attitude sends customers into that defensive mode of lashing out.

  • They feel they weren't listened to.

    People want to be listened to. Don't interrupt. Often, customers from hell start out honestly trying to resolve a problem or concern. But when they express their concerns and feel no one listened, it puts them in the place of, "You'd better listen to me!"

  • Someone told them they have no right to be angry.

    Everyone has a right to his or her emotions. When you tell them they have no right, they claim the right.

  • They are embarrassed at doing something incorrectly.

    Make sure customers understand what they need to know before they try to use your product or service. Go over procedures about returns, questions and guarantees so there will be fewer misunderstandings. Teach your customers with caring. Don't ever imply the customer was not smart enough.

  • Their integrity or honesty was questioned.

    Treat customers with respect and dignity. Assume your business has made the mistake until shown otherwise. Don't assume the customer is wrong. This happens too often. We know our business so well, we assume it must be the customer who made the mistake.

    Work to eliminate body language, voice tones and facial expressions that convey distrust. Avoid projecting an "us vs. them" attitude about customers. And, never threaten a customer.

  • Someone argued with them.

    If you argue with a customer, you always lose, even if you win. It is not good for other customers to witness an argument. They don't like seeing peers being treated poorly and will automatically become suspicious of your organization and how you might treat them next.

You must learn to resolve conflicts with customers. The best business practice is to make sure you review your procedures with customers and make sure you are not putting them through hell. Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

Thursday, 26 July 2001 20:00

The how and what of Y

Summer help wanted. Part-time help wanted. Internship available. Entry level position available. Looking for new college graduates.

If your company finds the need to fill a position with any of the above descriptions, chances are you're going to be hiring a younger employee, maybe even a member of the infamous Generation Y. Born between 1980 and 2000, the oldest members of Generation Y are beginning to graduate from college and enter the work force.

I'm often asked how to work with and train these younger employees. It is important to remember that for many, this is their first job or exposure to serving the customer. Teens and college-age workers may have little or no work experience and minimal training. Extra efforts in recruiting, training, motivating and supervising younger workers is often called for, not to mention an extra dose of understanding.

When dealing with younger employees, keep in mind:

  • Honesty and integrity are the traits they most admire.
  • A spirit of adventure and a desire to have fun is important in whatever they do.
  • Technology and the fact that they started using computers at an early age changed the way they think. It affects how they collect, organize and analyze information.
  • Tolerance is prevalent in younger employees. They often embrace diversity and actually prefer it, and readily accept people different from them.
  • Members of this group have grown up with a different type of stress. They are overscheduled and too connected. They are used to doing many different things. Having to stay in one place, such as the workplace, may be frustrating at first.

Here is a checklist to get you started in working with, dealing with and understanding members of Generation Y, both as your employees and as your customers.

  • Clearly communicate expectations and work standards. Don't assume they are innately aware of policies and standards or that they understand the need for them.
  • Younger employees need to see the value in what they do. Coach them in the importance of all tasks and help them understand the value to their personal and professional growth.
  • Avoid a bureaucratic atmosphere and management style. Younger employees are more receptive to team or family-like work environments. Meaningful collaboration with others to get the job accomplished is more important to them than competing to climb the organizational ladder.
  • Walk the talk. People respect competency and judge people according to the contributions they make, rather than the position they hold. Young employees prefer to be part of an ethical company acting in the interest of the community.
  • They thrive on innovation. Younger employees will ask, ''Why not?'' when leadership is hesitant to try new ideas, and like to investigate everything and question assumptions. They want to work quickly and creatively and do it in their own way. Most important, they want to be asked for their ideas and solutions.
  • Coach and nurture, rather than control. Younger employees appreciate supervisors who are friendly, and want supervisors to get to know them as individuals.

Pam Schuck is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (330) 273-8790.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:46

Would you do business with you?

Would you do business with yourself?

To really evaluate your business, it’s a question every owner must answer. Think like your prospective or current customers and ask yourself the question often. And be honest.

Are there things that happen, from occasionally to frequently, that influence the answer to be a resounding “No?”

If so, it’s time to examine why distinctive quality service is important. First, recognize who your competitors are. It’s not just your business competitors. For service excellence, you compete with anyone who gives your customers service.

Customers expect service experiences. They get them from restaurants, amusement parks, theater productions, retail stores and cruises. They rate your service on how they like to be treated by experience providers. Simple satisfaction is not good enough; customers expect to be wowed.

It’s critical, then, that you understand how to dissect the customer experience into two parts — process and outcome — because customers judge service quality differently than product quality.

The process encompasses the service quality provided in the experience. It’s the method you use to offer your customer experiences. The process can be positive, negative or in between. You must manage this process.

When you need to renew your driver’s license, do you look forward to the experience? I don’t. That’s because the process is not a positive experience. I experience unclear direction, long lines, negative attitudes and indifference to my questions or needs.

The outcome is the product quality. It determines whether the customer received the product expected, along with the quality of the product expected.

When I take my car in for service for an annoying sound, I receive recognition of who I am and what I purchased, respect for my problem, responsiveness to my time constraints and even little touches like coffee and a washed car.

Let’s examine those two experiences.

The process was negative in the first, but I did get the product I needed and wanted. Judged on the outcome alone, it was successful. But the process was negative and influences how I came to be an unsatisfied customer.

The process of the second was very positive, but when I get in the clean car and hear the annoying sound as I drive home, the outcome is not of the quality expected.

What does that mean? It means your customer judges both parts of the experience and weighs whether to give you his or her business again. That doesn’t mean, however, that failure to deliver on one section will preclude your customer from returning.

In fact, in the two examples, the second experience is more easily reconciled. Because the process was so positive, it is easier for a customer to willingly work with the service provider to turn the outcome around.

With a negative process, customers are more apt to become difficult customers and therefore unwilling to give the service provider any chance at repair.

Of course, if you have a negative process and a negative outcome, you have some serious issues with the impact of customer loyalty and your business will not prosper with poor service to the customer.

In managing the process of the customer experience, you must always know and see the customer’s perception. Customers are satisfied by their needs and wants, not by what you want their wants and needs to be. The success of the process and the outcome is determined by the customer’s perception. Your customer always views it as his perception and his reality.

You can adjust customer perceptions, but only after you are sure what they are.

First, learn what they see and why they see it that way. Then compare your perceptions to your customers’ and determine where the differences are. Finally, work to change your customer’s perceptions of your business.

What picture do you paint for your customers?

Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:44

Moments of truth

If you’re committed to service excellence within your business, develop an ability to look at yourself as your customer does.

Looking at your business through the eyes of the customer sounds easier than it is. It’s akin to trying to see your children the way their teacher does. Because you are so close to your children, it’s easy to assume everyone sees them the same way you do.

It’s the same with your business. As a former teacher, I can assure you, teachers see your children differently than you do — just as your customers see your enterprise in ways you can’t.

Business owners live their companies, and understandably, find it hard to see their business from the perspective of their clientele. The best practice to overcome that is to develop an ability to identify “moments of truth,” when a customer comes in contact with any part of your organization and uses that contact to judge its quality.

Simply put, it is a first impression. The first moments of truth are the most critical because your customer can only have them once.

So when do these moments of truth happen? Only you and your business can answer that. Dissect everything the customer experiences, from the beginning to the end of a typical encounter. Each contact with your organization is a moment of truth, from the greeting and smile in person or by phone to neatness of your office or working through the process of giving an order. Even the janitorial staff emptying your trash contributes.

Once you have identified your customers’ moments of truth, it is your job to influence positive moments and work to make them productive for your company. One key is to know your customers’ needs and provide them without requiring customers to ask.

Remember this: Each moment of truth contributes to the total experience. As your customers continue to do business with you, they build on their chain of experiences, and transform anything into a moment of truth.

Think of the chain like the paper chain we all made in first grade. We pasted each “experience” together to make the chain as long as we could, and we thought our chain was very strong and would last forever. But pull slightly on the chain, and it broke.

So it is with the customer’s chain of experiences in doing business with you. A negative moment of truth can be the tug that breaks the chain, and then you have to start all over building a new chain of experience for your customer.

Don’t just look for the big moments. Focus on the little things as well. Ask yourself what little things your customers expect and what little things you can do to wow them. Constantly develop new things that will show them you know who they are and that you care. Those little things make you appreciated by your customers.

Know what customers want, what they need, what they think, what they feel, whether they’re satisfied and whether they’ll return. If you know the answers and provide them before your customers ask you to, you’ll be one step ahead of your competitors.

More important, you will build positive moments of truth that benefit your business.

Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:39

What do you want to be famous for?

Planning for your company’s future is critical, because it ensures you have a clear road map of where you want to be.

It is not about predicting the future, but about understanding the forces that will affect your success. Consider it an opportunity to make fundamental choices about the future of your business.

But to do this, you must have a vision of what your business can be. The vision should be so compelling that people feel a strong desire to work together to reach the destination you are working toward.

Let’s look at developing a vision for a service strategy in your business. Often, we plan for all other aspects of the business and forget to focus on service vision and strategy.

Visualize what you want your business to be

Visualization is a very successful means of motivation. Visualize a clear picture of what you want your business to be, what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. Ask yourself: What do you want to be famous for?

Or perhaps, first you should ask what are you famous for now. What kind of service are your customers receiving? Is it the kind of service you want to be famous for? Is it hard for customers to do business with you? Do they have to work at being your customers?

Are the negative experiences your customers are having creating the wrong picture of your business? Do they feel like you care about them?

Another way to look at service fame is that you may not famous for anything. Customers hardly notice service one way or the other. This is as detrimental as being famous for the wrong kind of service. In today’s competitive world, if your competitors seize the opportunity to make their service strategy more responsive than yours, the business is lost.

What you want to be famous for is unsurpassed service — the kind that makes service the product you become famous for. Make your purpose clear and create a picture. If you develop a clear picture of what you want your service focus to be, it will motivate everyone to meet that vision.

It will be a motivator that the business has a commitment to service excellence. It also says the company realizes that service excellence is important to the future of the company.

Clarify your values

It is clear that those who develop and communicate what they want to accomplish deliver distinctive quality service. Begin your planning of service fame by clarifying your values.

What is your business? What counts most to your customers? What will count most tomorrow? How do customers see you now? What can you do to improve your service? What do you stand for?

What core values are more important than profits? What behaviors would mirror these values?

Look at actions as well. How do you treat employees? How do they treat customers? Is this treatment consistent with your core values? If it’s not, lay out a strategy to affect change.

Put it in writing

Once you have a service vision, write it down and constantly refer to it. Set standards that support your service vision to your customers and employees. This gives you one simple goal — to own the standards for service within your specific industry.

To get there, all team members, not just management, should help establish service standards. This gives everyone a commitment to deliver the result. Be sure to develop methods to measure results and checkpoints. Most important, specify that participation is required from all colleagues. Service cannot be an optional event.

I always encourage clients to look at five customer evaluators as a starting point:

Reliability — Your ability to provide what is promised, dependably and accurately.

Responsiveness — Your willingness to help your customers.

Assurance — The knowledge and courtesy you show your customer.

Empathy — The degree of caring and individual attention you show your customer.

Tangibles — The physical facilities, equipment, self, work areas and service systems.

All of which leads us back to the most important question: What do you want to be famous for?

Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIVE Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

Friday, 19 July 2002 06:01

Team attitude

Attitude is the core of personal and professional success.

One of my favorite quotes about attitude is, "There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative."

Attitude is a highly personal and sensitive topic -- only you are responsible for your attitude. No one can force a change for you, and only you can decide if it will be positive or negative.

Each person's positive attitude at work is important to his or her success. The attitudes your business team shows contribute to the overall success of the business. To have positive team attitude, you must have positive personal attitudes among team members.

You need to create a climate that encourages teamwork and sets the environment for positive team attitude. Negative attitudes undermine a team climate.

So how do you create a team climate?

A clear sense of direction with defined goals is imperative. The work needs to be challenging and meaningful, and perceived by team members with a real sense of purpose. Team members should feel there is an opportunity for achievement and that all resources needed to succeed will be available.

There is recognition at all levels from all levels for work that is done well. Creativity and open communication are encouraged, and there is an atmosphere of trust, not punishment. Most important, there is a clear expectation of teamwork as a company value.

Once you have worked to create a team climate, here are 15 signs that your staff has accepted and is fostering a positive team attitude:

Honesty and trust. They're honest and tell others what they know or don't know. They don't fake it.

Open communication offered regularly, before others have to ask.

Listening with care and sensitivity, and responding to needs and questions.

Anticipating others' needs and offering to meet those needs.

Offering promises of what they can and will do --not what they can't and won't do.

Keeping promises, doing what they say they will do.

Consistent follow-up and follow through with each other.

Support of one another instead of placing blame.

Knowledge sharing as opposed to keeping information as an advantage for personal gain.

Working together to solve a problem, not working against each other for their own self gain.

Accepting the differences in people and knowing that differences bring strength through unique perspectives.

Showing respect and value for every person and his or her contributions.

Empathy for one another, combined with fair, compassionate and honest thoughtfulness.

Trust built through reliability and dependability.

Being nice to each other.

If you look at the characteristics of a positive team attitude, you'll see this is an accurate checklist for the characteristics we look for in quality customer service. And when these characteristics are strong in your team's attitude, they will transfer to your customer. Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

Friday, 19 July 2002 05:15

Role reversal

Every business owner wants to provide top-notch service, but have you unwittingly created a perception in your customers' minds that they're the ones working hard to do business with you?

Here are five situations that could hurt your company and send your customers running to the competition.

Reliability

If you promise to return phone calls, does that happen or does the customer have to call your company back, often numerous times? When you market products and ensure availability, are they in stock? If not, do you promise to get the product in, then communicate with the customer?

More times than you may realize, your customer gets the job of finding out if the product is in. While you may offer hassle-free returns, the reality is that the customer is responsible for producing purchase order numbers, receipts and shipping documents to resolve problems that aren't their fault.

Customers want to know what they can count on you for. Tell them, and don't make them work to cash in on your promises.

Assurance

Don't hold customers responsible for what they don't know. You and your staff should be responsible for product and company knowledge and good listening and problem solving skills.

Be willing to share information and educate customers, but don't make them work to get that information. Instead, offer it by telling them what resources your business can provide them with.

Responsiveness

Evaluate your turn-around time in answering questions, providing information and solving problems. Do you set and meet deadlines? And, do you treat clients' questions as intrusions or give the perception of being apathetic?

Being responsive is the biggest key in avoiding the customer "work" perception. Be proactive, not reactive -- even if you don't know the answers -- and don't make clients feel as if they must repeatedly ask questions to get the information they require. Once a client feels neglected, he or she must work to make you respond to their concerns.

At that point, you've lost their trust.

Empathy

Be genuine in your concern and care for your customers. The phrase, "I don't care what you know until I know that you care" applies here.

Empathy goes a long way in preventing the perception of being overworked and underappreciated. It shows you care about clients and their business. Empathy eases the pain of doing business with you.

Tangibles

Evaluate physical barriers, requirements, procedures and policies. Take pride in your workplace and instill pride in your employees. Set standards of what your business looks like and how you reflect your professionalism.

Is it easy to navigate your business physically, online and on the phone? How does it look and feel to the customer? Is it hard to find information about a product, track down people or receive service?

An example is your voice mail menu. Do customers have to be prepared to write down their options because your menu is so long and confusing? Tangibles amplify customers' perceptions that they must do an inordinate amount of work to do business with your company.

If you take the time to evaluate your business from top to bottom, you'll determine just how difficult -- or easy -- it is to do business with you. Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:45

Knowledge tree

There isn’t a business today that can succeed without knowing who its customers are, what and how they think, why they are customers and what will make them take their business elsewhere.

This may sound like expensive market research, but at the service level, it is as simple as knowing and being able to relate to the customer. And the expertise to do this is already in place.

Everyone is an experienced customer. You are a customer every day, every hour. You are a customer when you turn on the lights, use water, listen to the radio, grab that on-the-go breakfast thing or start your car.

But you have to take those experiences and relate them to your business: What prompts you to decide if you have a good or bad experience? What makes you happy as a customer and what doesn’t?

It’s irritating to compete for the attention of the service provider who is on a personal phone conversation. Apply that to your business. Because you know how irritating it is to be ignored, make it your company’s service goal to provide responsiveness and caring when working with customers.

Knowing your customers means listening to, understanding and responding to their evolving needs and constantly shifting expectations. It is important to remember that your customers’ needs change and evolve all of the time.

A new customer’s needs may be much different than an experienced customer’s. A new customer requires more attention and an explanation of how your process works. Existing customer may simply need check-ups to show them your business respects their loyalty.

When you think of your competitors, have you ever considered which is your service excellence competition? Customers who experience superior service expect to have that experience with everyone they do business with. Therefore, you compete with any service provider who excels at providing a quality service experience, including Disney, Nordstrom or that corner grocery store that knows your customer’s first name, who their kids are and what sports they play.

If you examine your personal customer service inventories, your list would most assuredly fall into the five ways customers evaluate a service experience. Know what your customer expects from your business in these categories:

  • Reliability — Your ability to provide what is promised, dependably and accurately. This includes personal, organizational, indirect or expected promises. Make sure you know how your customer perceives your promises.

    If you promise to call in a few minutes with information, what constitutes a few minutes? Does your customer think five minutes while you think 30?

  • Responsiveness — Your willingness to help your customers. Evaluate your turnaround time in answering questions, providing information and solving problems.

    Do you set and meet deadlines? Do you treat your customers as intrusions or give the perception of being apathetic?

  • Assurance — The knowledge and courtesy you show your customer. Don’t blame the customers for what they don’t know. You must be the expert.

    You and all of your employees are responsible for product knowledge, company knowledge, good listening skills and problem solving skills.

  • Empathy — The degree of caring and individual attention you show your customer. You must be genuine in your concern and care. Treat each one as an individual with unique needs, different attitudes, expectations and emotions.

    “I don’t care what you know until I know that you care,” applies here.

  • Tangibles — Physical facilities, equipment, self, work areas and service systems. Evaluate barriers, requirements, procedures and policies. Take pride in your workplace and instill pride in your employees.

    Set standards of what your business should look like and how you reflect your professionalism.

The bottom line is that if you and your staff really observe and listen, your customers will tell you what they need and want from you. Just take the time to really know your customers and build a relationship.

Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:37

Walk the talk

It's an all-too-common problem: Feedback that your service to customers should be better.

That means it's time for a commitment to improve your service standards. Service excellence is not just a competitive edge. In many industries, it is the competitive edge.

Service can be, and often is, the new standard by which customers judge an organization's performance. An increase in customer satisfaction can yield a measurable rise in profits. If your service is just OK -- that is, no complaints -- it isn't going to give you the competitive edge you are looking for. Remember, your competition is always just over your shoulder. Stumble, and it could seize that edge of service excellence and take your customers with it.

So where do you start?

If you're like most companies, you'll try the front line, with the people who have face-to-face (or phone-to-phone) contact with the customer. This is a mistake. Instead, start with management. Quality service is orientation of all resources and people in a company toward customer satisfaction.

Management commitment is especially important. Management needs to embrace and develop the service culture because it should lead and motivate all employees. If your management doesn't commit, your employees will know it.

To maintain management commitment, hold regular executive sessions. Work to avoid management isolation. Make it clear that quality service is expected and even demanded. Commitment must be real and honest.

All too often, management tends to be reluctant in committing to service as a strategy for improvement and business growth. But remember this: When customers are presented with a choice between companies, and those companies offer comparable quality product and pricing, the distinct difference of service quality becomes the deciding factor in where they take their business.

With that in mind, it is critical to give your customer the service perception of a company that induces them to do business with the company again.

To do that, your management team will need to identify and implement long-term strategies such as continually evaluating the organizational environment, policies and procedures, management responsiveness to employees and responsiveness to customers. You want a whole organization approach focused on consideration of the successful customer experience. Ensuring your customers' wants and needs are represented in decision-making planning and meetings does this.

You will need to motivate and teach customer service skills. Examine and correct anything that gets in the way of superior employee performance. Understand that many employees today do not know service skills, and it is your responsibility to teach them. Only then can you hold them accountable. Be sure to reward high-performing service employees.

Your goal is to develop a service initiative that sets service standards that are practiced by everyone. Another goal is to see service as the product. You must really know that quality service can only be achieved through long-term commitment; it is not just a passing phase. Walk the talk -- with a team made up of everyone in the organization.

Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIVE Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:34

Mopping up

It's happened. Something has gone wrong with one of your customer's experiences with your business and now you must practice customer recovery.

Customer recovery is returning an upset customer to a state of satisfaction after a service or product breakdown has occurred. Why is it important?

Economic and marketing value. Studies show it is less expensive to keep the customers you have than to find new ones. Unhappy customers will tell everyone about their service issues and it will affect your ability to attract and retain new customers.

Customer loyalty. When a customer feels you have resolved a problem, you have used the opportunity to develop a stronger customer relationship and proven their business is valuable.

Identification of organizational problems. You may never know what kind of problems exist unless a customer cares enough to complain and gives you the opportunity to make it right. Worry about customer complaints you don't hear about.

So what do your customers expect when a problem has occurred?

A sincere apology. That doesn't mean you have to always admit you were wrong. Customers are not always right, but they are always your customers. They deserve an apology that shows respect and empathy for their situation.

Start the recovery process with, "I am sorry you have experienced a problem with our service. We will work with you to resolve this problem."

To have problems resolved fairly and effectively. You must listen actively, ask questions, gather information and repeat the information to make sure you understood what your customer is telling you. It is your responsibility to help customers explain their problems, not the customers' responsibility to "prove" they didn't do anything wrong.

Assume customer innocence. If you find the customer has caused the problem, it is your job to educate him or her.

Treatment that shows the company cares about the problem and about helping to resolve it. Smile, empathize and promise to solve the problem. Customers are the only reason you are in business.

Compensation equivalent to the burden the customer has endured. All too often, business owners fail to acknowledge how much the inconvenience has cost the customer. Ask what you need to do to make it right. You may be surprised in finding customers very reasonable in their expected compensation.

Deliver what was promised rather than something that falls short. Follow up with customers to confirm everything was resolved to their satisfaction.

Customers who have problems and concerns want to be communicated with. Your focus should be on open, ongoing communication in the customer recovery process.

Also, make sure your employees are aware of customer recovery issues and how they were resolved. Often, employees repeat errors that caused customer dissatisfaction and the issues arise again.

Use customer recovery as a training plan. Educate employees about why and how you resolved the problem. Employees may feel you don't respect their work when you give the customer something in the resolution, if the employee feels the customer shouldn't get that thing because the customer was wrong. Everyone should know the importance of a good customer recovery plan.

Develop service systems that simplify and encourage complaints. They will lead to increased profit. Why? Because customers who complain to the company are less likely to spread their complaints throughout the community, thereby turning away a certain amount of business.

Good customer recovery programs restore brand loyalty, confidence and repurchase intention of customer who experience service problems with a company. Pam Schuck (pschuck@strivetraining.com) is president of STRIV=E Training, which specializes in motivating customer service for businesses. She can be reached at (440) 235-5498.

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