Customers are fickle, temperamental and sometimes they are outright crazy! There is a fine line between “the customer is always right” and allowing the customer to take advantage of you. So is there a way to create a win-win situation? Maybe not always but it is sure worth a try because in this economy losing even one customer is a really bad thing. So how can your protect the company without alienating the customer?
1) Like everything, communication is a key component in making sure that everyone is on the same page with your policies. Simply putting something in writing may not truly be enough if you are really interested in making sure that your customer understands. This is especially true if you are dealing with a very diverse customer population (there is no way to be sure there is a good enough level of comprehension) or if the information is technical in nature (just because it makes perfect sense to you does not mean it is intuitive to every one). Just like in marketing, it is best to get your message across using several different mediums on several different occasions.
2) Think twice before limiting your customer’s choices or imposing your will on them. Yesterday I found out that I owe Verizon Wireless $299 for a replacement phone. Long story short, I consider the phone defective and they consider it damaged- fair enough. What is not fair is that I don’t have the choice to buy the replacement, get my “damaged” phone back and have it repaired or simply purchase a different phone. Verizon has made all of the decisions for me- and I am beyond angry. I did not realize I was giving away all of my rights…well, not all of them. I still have the right to change carriers which is likely my course of action. Seems silly that they would give up a long time customer with six phone lines because they do not want to offer their customers a choice of phone replacement options.
3) Always strive for the win-win solution. Maybe you can’t give a full refund or offer free shipping or whatever but is there something else you can do so that both parties are happy? I will hazard to guess that 98% of the time by simply listening to the customer’s concerns you can find a solution that is agreeable to both sides.
4) Get creative. Once, I was working as an install coordinator for a big box store. A customer’s carpet install was delayed but the installer did not let the customer know and she spent most of her day waiting on an installer that never showed. By the time she called me she was really mad (and rightfully so). The store would occasionally offer a discount for the inconvenience but I could tell that this was not about money. The
customer lost valuable time. She told me that she was working on her landscaping and could have been out getting her supplies instead of twiddling her thumbs at home. I asked her about her project and found out she was going out to get some top soil and mulch (guess what- we have that!). So I arranged for the store to deliver her top soil, mulch and a few really nice flowers at no charge. This was a lot less than the discount the manager would have given and it thrilled the customer because “we gave her back lost time” and a gift as well. Win-win!!
Most businesses want to call themselves customer service oriented. Customer delight has to be more than a motto. You always need to strive to make the customer as satisfied as possible. Sometimes this is extra work and can be a real headache but it WILL be worth it in the long run!
Michele, I think it is so important to strive for the win win. Not only does the organization benefit, but the customer also feels a sense of satisfaction as well. Happy customers refer new business! On the flip side, unhappy customers cut into future market share by voicing their discontent and prohibiting potential customers.
Exactly! Happy customers tell 2-3 people but unhappy customers tell 10+ (and I would hazard to say hundreds with social media). It is a true adage that you cannot make everyone happy but if you are in business you should certainly strive to make as many happy as possible.
On a side note, yesterday I called Verizon to cancel my service and got to speak with a customer service rep that was an absolute pleasure (Thanks, Rebecca in TN). It was absolutely obvious that she did work for the win-win and she succeeded! I think the big thing was she LISTENED!! Once she had enough information from me she was able to offer options and we were able to reach an agreement that was good for both parties. Verizon should give her a raise- she saved a customer yesterday!
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