So, if something fails, a claim is made or a problem found, it’s always best to sympathise with the customer/client and then move on into the resolution phase as quickly as possible.
Adding value to your relationships in the marketplace via good customer service is one of the prime drivers of satisfaction.
So don’t undo all that good work with insincerity and a forced apology when things go awry. Following a few straightforward rules should lead to quicker resolutions and better customer retention.
Customer relations are a minefield at the best of times, and finding the balance between great service and great profits is a true test of a business model. So, when mistakes do occur. how do you best resolve the problem?
The clear guidelines below should prevent any continuing problems, and following these may just foster an even greater business to-business or customer relationship and loyalty in the future.
The seven pillars of reparation are:
1. Be proactive. Prevention is the best cure. If any known, or potential issue arises, contact the customer immediately and indicate the issue clearly.
2. Be prompt. Respond to any errors as rapidly as possible, emailing or phoning the affected parties as soon as the full facts are known. Don’t, however, make the error of addressing the problem without these facts as this may compound the issue.
3. Be honest, sympathetic and empathetic. Sincerity in this case is your best ally, and customer relationships are hard to foster so protecting them is a key motivator.
4. Be clear. Prepare the facts of the error and explain these as fully as necessary or possible from your business standpoint. Clarify with HR if required, especially if the issue has a personnel element.
5. Show responsiveness. Clarify to the customer how this will be dealt with now and in the future. This may rely on communications improvements, better systems management or improved training.
6. Identify the resolution. Clearly state what can be done now to aid the client and their issue. Ensure clear systems are in place for this, and do not make promises that cannot be fulfilled or are clearly at odds with your business model.
7. Say sorry. However you apologise, use the actual words to say that you, personally, are sorry for the problem that has arisen, no matter the scale of the issue.
The act of apologising itself has its own power. At some time or another, we have all had to clear up an error, and there is nothing worse than the other person skirting around the issue of accountability. Even more powerful than this, evidence suggests, as described in Matthew Syed’s excellent “Black Box Thinking”, that litigation can be prevented by a full and honest disclosure of events.
Being proactive, supportive and honest when an error occurs will almost always encourage loyalty and improve customer satisfaction. Work to this endpoint at all times, and customer retention will look after itself.
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