Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of the book, "How the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want."
“Every business owner knows things will go wrong from time to time,” says Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of the new book …And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want (www.AndTheClientsWentWild.com) and The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life (www.TheConnectorsBook.com). “It’s how you handle these episodes that counts."
According to Kuzmeski, many companies spend tons of money and time on big customer service initiatives in order to woo new customers—but they end up losing their regular customers over little things. When you consider the 80/20 rule—a maxim stating that most businesses get 80 percent of their revenue from 20 percent of their existing client base—it’s clear that you can’t afford to let that happen.
The solution, says Kuzmeski, is to a) stave off disasters by taking some commonsense preventive measures and b) develop some service recovery techniques and make sure everyone who interacts with your customers knows them. She offers the following advice:
Learn to recognize (and truly understand) your customers’ situations. Provide an individual care approach for your customers. For example, someone shopping with children will have very different needs from, say, an elderly couple shopping for gifts for their grandkids. Therefore, you must train your customer service people to recognize these key differences and adjust their responses accordingly.“Teach service employees to understand the context of a situation and to sympathize with customers,” says Kuzmeski. “For example, they might give the kids something to keep them occupied so mom can focus on shopping. Meanwhile, the employees might keep a close eye on the elderly couple in case they need any extra help looking at a product on a high shelf. When your customer service people are attentive and proactive, often they can solve a problem before it becomes one.”
Make sure you always follow through. Don’t tell someone you will be with him in a moment if you know you will be helping a different customer for ten minutes. He’ll just stand around impatiently, start to feel annoyed, and then leave—probably heading straight to a competitor’s store. Instead, go find a coworker to help him out. If you know that he’s going to be waiting for awhile, be honest about this. (It wouldn’t hurt to offer him a magazine to read while he waits.) “Great customer service isn’t necessarily about getting it right every single time,” says Kuzmeski. “I think most people understand that occasionally even the best companies are going to fall short. But what your customers absolutely do have to see from you is that you are doing your level best to deliver on everything you’ve promised them.”