Spin Doctor for Customer Service

Stop negative word of mouth before it begins.

By Dulce Gonell-Holderby, Training Account Manager Signature Worldwide

Dealing with customer complaints is not fun. We all have been through an experience in which the customer was not a happy camper. So how do you prevent this unhappy customer from passing on their negative experience to their friends, family, and the world, especially since we are a society of technology and we share things at a moment’s notice?

My suggestion is be proactive whenever possible. Do not wait for a customer to speak up and complain when you see or sense something is wrong. Just the act of being proactive may calm the situation and show your customer that you care and, more importantly, are sensitive to their happiness.

Sometimes you do not know they are unhappy, and you must wait for them to voice their complaints either verbally or in writing. This is good because it gives you a chance to respond and correct the situation at hand. Information from the client is valuable, whether it is good or bad, as it allows you to know where weaknesses might exist in your operation.

If you train your team properly, they should be able to spot a customer who appears to be unhappy. Most of the time, when a customer complains, it is because they feel they do not matter. Your staff should be calm, ask the right questions, and show they are truly concerned that the customer is unhappy. Show the customer they matter.

When I am the customer, I personally enjoy when I am asked, “How was your meal?” and “Were your expectations met?”

Most people do not like confrontation, so sometimes the customer will not tell you, but make no mistake, they will tell 10 people they know. Therefore, my suggestion is to take the customer’s temperature during their experience.

Every business is different, but there are questions that can be used in all industries to make sure a customer walks away happy and satisfied. Some of the most common questions are:

  •  Are you finding everything you need?
  •  Are you enjoying your time here with us?
  •  Is there anything we can do for you?
  • What could we have done to make your experience better?

If you ask, you usually will get valuable feedback. Feedback can be positive or negative. No matter which it is, always remember to thank the customer for sharing. In addition, if it is negative, empathize with them and assure them you will make sure all necessary parties address the issue. It is important to make them feel as though what they shared with you matters and that you personally will own the issue.

It is easier to keep customers happy as opposed to trying to fix a bad situation. Once the damage is done and they share with others, it can never be totally put back in a box. If word gets out on the Internet, it is even worse.

If a customer does post something negative about your service and or product, do not dismiss it. Take it to heart and do your best to make it right for that customer. Personally call or e-mail them and let them know you want to make things right. Also, in some cases, post a follow-up comment of action you took with the situation to show others that you do care and are concerned about trying to rectify the situation.

Mistakes are going to happen, bad service will happen on occasion – there is no avoiding this 100 percent. The key is your response to the situation and to the person. Make the customer feel important, that what they say matters, and, most important, make them feel valued. Turn those lemons into lemonade.

Dulce Gonell-Holderby is a training account manager for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.