When things go wrong, are you nimble enough to prove to angry customers that you want them back? Can you spring into action, identify the issue, plan a recovery, and quickly implement it? That’s what your customers expect and deserve.
The delivery of products and services and the creation of them is mostly a human activity. And because we are human, we have good days and bad days. Customers get that more than companies give them credit for. Emotions begin to run high and customer issues often escalate because:
- Blunders seem to be purposefully swept under the rug.
- Apologies aren’t genuine.
- No one is working to make the situation better (and/or no one seems to care).
- Waiting turns into an endless, unknown void.
Prove your sincerity with speed, humility and reliability
It has been proven that a genuine apology strengthens the emotional connection that a customer has with a company.
In everyday life—as we shop at the grocery store, stay in a hotel, and eat at restaurants—service failures will occur. The front line can become the hero of somebody’s day in a minute if they are free to do the right thing. The customer who receives an apology and a $15 gift card is happy to get another meal, and you get another chance. That’s a speedy response. Give the people interacting directly with customers the ability to apologize and respond immediately when irregularities occur. It takes so little to bring someone back around. Just a little bit of thinking ahead can make the front line nimble enough to recover from customer disappointments.
What if the stakes are higher? What happens when a cruise ship faces rough seas caused by 125 mph winds and the question “When will this experience end?” remained on passengers’ minds for three days. Videos and photographs of high waves and interior damage were shared on Twitter. Passengers praised the crew and captain (and the kitchen staff). “They did everything they could to make us feel comfortable…” Is it enough to receive a refund, plus a voucher for 50% of the cruise cost to be used toward a future cruise fare? The cruise passengers get to answer that question and tell others their stories.
The speed, content and tone of a company’s apology is crucial in a digitally connected world. Your motivation is to make customers whole—to earn the right to continue the relationship. However, repairing the emotional connection with customers in distress can be costly. Often the easy-to-execute apology is extended, but the intent is to only “get past the incident.”
Don’t consider the job done until the emotional connection with customers is restored.
5 actions that prove to customers they're important to you
It’s unavoidable that at some point, your business will suffer a failure that disappoints a lot of customers or a particular customer. Your customer recovery is an opportunity to make amends.
The apology process between companies and customers is comprised of five actions that signal to angry customers that they are important and that someone is looking after them:
1. Deliver a swift response.
2. Show humility and empathy for what the customer is experiencing.
3. Accept accountability.
4. Provide an honest explanation of what happened and a commitment to improve.
5. Extend an olive branch to right the situation and mend the relationship.
Your actions create a story about how you treat your customers. And customers will tell the story from beginning to the end. It may be through word of mouth during a book club, at work, or while watching a child’s game; or it may be through blog posts, photos or videos shared on social media.
The best apologies remain between customers and company. Great apologies are delivered with humility. Creating fanfare around them is not in the spirit of a genuine apology. In fact, the profiled “Decide to Say Sorry” decisions in my second book I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad weren’t trumped up and announced to the world by the companies that made them. The stories were told initially by the recipients of the apologies, the customers, who were grateful, moved, and amazed by the gestures that proved “we want you back.”
A version of this article was first published on the CustomerBliss blog and is republished here with permission.