Anyone that owns a business big or small can identify the difficulties you run into when handling an unhappy customer. I learned good and bad habits from a long line of plumbers. My uncle was a plumber and he taught my father how to run his plumbing company. In return my father taught me. That’s two generations set in their ways and I simply followed in their footsteps. This is one of those bad habits that could have caused me a lot of pain had I not corrected my company’s behavior.
There were many days as a young man that I saw my father lay out the invoices on the desk and begin calling the customers who had a complaint. Dad would turn red in the face fighting with them. He would hang up the phone and say, “I am going to get my money, they are going to pay for the services provided to them”! Worse than that, sometimes the customer hung up on him.
When I started my business I did the same thing my father did. After all, this is what I knew. I argued with the customer as my blood pressure raised higher. I felt as though I did the service requested of me and in return payment should be made. Either the customer or I would hang up unhappy. I hated those days when I had a customer complaining about service or price. 90% of the time it was about price.
I thought I was winning because the customer paid, but I really lost. I know we can all relate to this.
There is a hardware store down from my home. I use to go there to purchase things I needed because it was in a convenient location. The gentleman owned this hardware store had a very poor attitude. I can remember one day I had to return something and I began talking to him. He was very ugly towards me, which was no surprise. I explained to him that I had been coming in there for quite sometime now and every time I came in his attitude was rude and unwelcoming. Do you know what he said to me? “Well, don’t come in here”.
I started driving the extra 5 miles to go to Lowes all because I was not doing business with someone who did not provide exceptional customer service. I fired him. To this day I still do not go to his store. I noticed fewer and fewer cars in his parking lot as I drove by.
During that time a light bulb went off and I realized my customers were firing me because I was arguing with them. I realized that by arguing with my customers there was little to nothing I could have done to keep them as a client. Not only was I not going to get them back, I was also going to loose anybody that they spoke to about my business. I may have won that battle but I truly lost the war. I began to ask myself how could I change my way of business to benefit the customer, but not hurt business at the same time.
I began networking with very successful companies. They told me that doing whatever you could to make a client happy will improve your business not hurt it. I was not sure I understood. Give their money back; give them all their money back. They explained if you are flat rating and you are refunding unhappy customers you can still get paid for those jobs. Lets say you gave back $5,000 in refunds one year. Just add $2 per billable hour to your flat rate. The people who pay you for services make up for the clients you have to refund. You didn’t loose anything and you kept a client. A win, win situation if you ask me!
Do everything you can to make your customer happy. Remember customers are always right even if they are wrong. In a previous article “What are you leaving behind when dad gets home” I spoke about how a customer’s suggested refund amount is normally much less than what you have in mind. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they think is a fair price. I started doing that and the response was incredible. We tracked the clients and more often than not they came back because we made sure and did whatever we could to make them happy.
You will run in to certain customers you cannot please and you cannot afford to please. That is just life, unfortunately. If you track your customers and you have to provide a refund the next time you provide service, what should you do? Do it again. Give them their money back. One of the main keys in a successful business is doing everything to keep a customer happy.
If you know this is a chronic issue with a customer then take note and the next time that customer calls your business explain that you are very busy but you do know a company to recommend. We all have competitors that do not provide the quality of service that we offer. When I owned my Plumbing/HVAC company I would recommend difficult customers to those subpar competitors. By referring your difficult clients to those companies, maybe the customer will see the value of your services.
Here are six reasons why customer service, both good and bad, is important when dealing with an unhappy customer*:
- A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience.
- Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.
- Negative interactions with a business are spread to twice as many people as positive ones.
- People are twice as likely to talk about bad customer service experiences than they are to talk about good experiences.
- 67% of people spend money after getting recommendations from their friends on online communities like Facebook and Twitter.
- Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience.
So there are 2 simple rules you want to always remember and follow when dealing with unhappy customers:
Rule #1 – Satisfaction Guaranteed… No Matter What!™
Rule #2 – Satisfaction Guaranteed… No Matter What!™
**Source for word-of-mouth statistics: White House Office of Consumer Affairs, 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer, McKinsey Quarterly, Internet Retailer. Read more at http://www.business2community.com/customer-experience/6-reasons-great-customer-service-drives-powerful-word-mouth-marketing-results-0636835#s5JLjHf9XI5DVxjC.99