Council Post: Eight Ways Companies Can Turn A Negative Customer Experience Into A Positive One

Turning a poor customer experience around continues to be one of the main struggles customer service professionals face daily. When the service experience goes poorly, a company can risk losing that customer forever.

The key to success is having go-to strategies for remedying the situation and regaining that customer’s trust and loyalty. To demonstrate how to turn unsatisfactory experiences into satisfactory ones, eight members of Young Entrepreneur Council shared their top-recommended ways to improve customer service.

1. Really Listen

This doesn’t just mean being quiet while they talk. Actually listen to them. Ask questions when they retell the story. Agree with them when they mention something that your company did wrong. It’s fine to disagree with them, but always remember that missed expectations cause most upset customers. So even if you disagree with them, recognize that your company failed to properly communicate expectations (or failed to live up to them). Obviously offer a solution where you can, but if you don’t start with listening, the rest will be for naught. – Mark Daoust, Quiet Light Brokerage, Inc.

2. Capture Their Experience With A Survey

It’s best to first capture the customer’s experience internally with a survey or other means of communication with your business, especially one that goes directly to customer support. Suppose you’re able to get in contact with the customer before they leave a negative review on the App Store or online. In that case, you’ll have the opportunity to resolve the complaint and make amends in private rather than essentially airing your dirty laundry in public. This effort on your part will also make the customer feel more positively about your business because they’ll see that you care about their experience and are willing to go out of your way to ensure they’re satisfied. – Tyler Quiel, Giggster

3. Ask The Customer For Their Help

Is there anything more frustrating than a bad customer experience? They are angry, you are disappointed and everyone gets caught in the wreckage in between. The only truly effective solution I’ve found to solve a customer issue is to ask them to help solve the issue. Don’t try to guess what might make them happy—ask them. Let them know you are so invested in their satisfaction that you need their opinion and thoughts to find the best possible solution to your issue. Then, thank them for it—acknowledge them online, send them a thank-you card, give them a small token of appreciation. Not only will you have a customer for life, but word-of-mouth news of your care and dedication to customer happiness will spread like wildfire, and your customer base will continue to blossom. – Ashley Sharp, Dwell with Dignity

4. Set Up Automatic Customer Service Checks

In my hospitality company, we unfortunately deal with customers once in a while who leave unhappy. The first and most important thing to do with every customer is to communicate with them soon after their experience. We set up automatic texts for our clients. These usually get to the customer before they go to public review sites with something negative. If their time with us wasn’t up to par, they usually always reply, which then triggers someone in our company who is specifically there to manage the experience of our guests. Our director of hospitality will contact the guest and invite them back with something complimentary. Then our staffer will actually meet the customer when they come back to ensure service is perfect. This extra attention wows them and turns them around. – Michael Sinensky, WeShield

5. Offer A ‘Win-Back’ Promotion

First, solve their problem. Then offer a “win-back” promotion. The biggest reason customers leave is a breach of confidence or trust. You can go a long way in resolving that by simply addressing the issue they faced and informing them of your solution moving forward. Of course, to convert them into a paying customer again, offer them an incentive to try your product or service one more time. That could be a discount or promotion that de-risks their investment and provides them with more trust that you’re working hard to do the right thing for them in delivering more value. – Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress

6. Respond Right Away

The faster you can respond, the more your customer will feel like you are available and eager to listen. Letting a complaint sit can make it fester and conveys that you have more important things to do than to talk to your customer. If it’s not always feasible to respond to every complaint right away, you can use a complaint management software that helps get the problem to the appropriate people as soon as possible. Most of this software includes an auto-escalation feature that prevents complaints from stagnating. I also always tell my employees not to let the customer be the last person to reply. No company makes 100% of its customers happy all the time, but you can still be the last one to respond to show that you have tried everything you could to help. – Shu Saito, All Filters

7. Be Proactive And Open

The best way to turn a negative experience around is to be proactive and open. For example, if a customer complains that their product isn’t working, apologize, ask what went wrong and offer to replace their product. If you’ve ever had to deal with a bad customer service experience, you know that it sticks in your memory and can really affect how you feel about a brand. You want to be transparent and open about how you’re going to fix the problem. This is not only the best way to capture and retain customers, but it’s also a great way to keep them up to date on what’s happening in your business and the industry in general. – Kevin Ryan Tao, NeuEve

8. Let Them Know That Changes Have Been Made

Once a business has incurred the sunk costs to “acquire” a customer, the goal is to keep earning revenue from that customer on future business. If the customer has a poor experience, future business could be in jeopardy. To support repeat customers who had a poor experience, it’s important to make sure the customer knows that they have been heard and that the company cares. As such, it’s important that the customer knows that processes and procedures have been changed, and “controls” have been put in place to ensure that the issue never occurs  again. This shows how serious the company takes the customer experience and it resolves any doubt in their mind that they will have a different experience in the future. A customer you’ve retained will be twice as loyal, and likely to refer! – Bill Mulholland, ARC Relocation

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