We’ll get right to it. Whether you’ve been a small business owner for sometime or you’re fairly new – customer problems are the norm. We’d like to say that once you get into the groove and have worked out the kinks of your business or new venture, customer issues went away, but it just isn’t true. Studies show that 59% of customers have experienced problems in the past six months. But that number isn’t what should be concerning – the fact that most organization’s resolution processes are seriously missing the mark should be.
So how do you go about vetting your current customer problem resolution process? And how do you make changes to improve? Here’s what we’ve found.
Problems Aren’t Just Problems…
Changing perspective is probably the best way to change resolution processes outcome. We’re not just talking about spinning a story or agreeing that the customer is always right – we’re talking about seeing the real problem as something more than just a problem. With today’s technology, an unhappy customer can easily take their unsatisfying experience to the internet, making it known to the masses. Although something like this can be damaging to your bottomline and ultimately your brand, it doesn’t have to be. As the boss or owner, you can see this as a chance to show your authenticity and willingness to make things right – you’re simply changing your perspective on the situation and with that comes a change in attitude. Instead of feeling frustrated when you approach the problem and the unhappy customer that goes with it, you go into the situation with the upper hand – you know there’s an issue and you’re looking to find a win for everyone involved. This approach makes you the effective leader rather than low man on the totem pole that gets all the dirty work.
You might also be surprised that your new perspective easily rubs off on others.
How to Make a Negative a Positive
Once you’ve changed your perspective, you’re ready to face the problem head on. The very same study that said over half of a customer base would have a problem over a 6 month time span also shows that customers who are engaged in the resolution process are a lot happier than if they’re not included. In fact, 73% of customers repurchase after a problem resolution experience with only 13% remain dissatisfied. So how do you help the customer be a part of the process? We’ve made a short list with a few tried-and-true ideas:
- show gratitude – tell them you’re glad they spoke up and that you want to make it right. Letting them know that you value them as a customer AND that you value their feedback goes a long way.
- ask them what would be the biggest help – you can’t just give away free services or product to everyone, but you can ask customers what might be the biggest help to them seeing that they’ve been inconvenienced in some way. Our recommendation is that you only provide this option to customers who are looking for a positive outcome – some just want to complain or walk away with as much as they can get – we’re fairly certain you’ve run into both types and can tell the difference between those that are looking to resolve things and those that are just wanting to fuel the fire.
- give clear expectations and a timeline – how many times have you been promised something but then didn’t know the particulars of how it would come about or when it might happen? We’ve been there too. Communicating clear expectations and reasonable timelines helps you build trust with a client who’s questioning if you can help them based on their prior experience. No matter what, don’t promise more than you’re able to give – we recommend building in a buffer when it comes to time so you’re able to go above and beyond expectations rather than disappoint a second time.
- check-in, follow-up, and express more gratitude – once your resolution plan has been put into process or has been completed its time to follow up. Don’t just send a generic survey or boilerplate email. Instead, leave a voicemail, send a text, or shoot them a brief email you wrote yourself checking up on what’s been happening and making sure things are working out in their favor. Again, more gratitude for their patience or expressing that they’re a valued customer will go a long way.
Now It’s Time to Change The Story
As far as the customer is concerned, the story ends with their happy ending – but for you, it’s the key piece to what happens next. Take a look at the different complaints you’ve been resolving. Are there similarities between them? Can you pinpoint where the problem actually lies? If so, it’s time to get to work and see if you can’t change your story so that the issues don’t occur again.
Although the best case scenario would be to eliminate the problem entirely, it’s not always possible. If that’s the case, look for ways that you can combat the problem at hand so you can at least cut down the number of poor consumer experiences you’re compiling. Not only will this help boost consumer perception, but it will build your employee morale because they’re effecting serious change. You might find that new products or services can help combat the issues that are happening and you don’t have to come up with all the answers yourself- encourage employees to help brainstorm solutions so that everyone is apart of satisfying the customer.
So what problems are you experiencing and how are you turning them into opportunities?
Ben Sutton is the founder of Mazuma USA, an accounting firm providing tax, bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses. Since founding Mazuma, Ben has established himself as an expert in the small business world. He’s still driven by that same desire to provide accounting help to all small businesses – from photographers, bloggers and creatives to lawyers, doctors, and dentists, everyone needs affordable accounting help. Ben is a Certified Public Accountant, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But Ben considers his greatest achievement and credential to be his happy wife and four children.