You’re not perfect. Far from it. Me, too. You will make mistakes. You will ruin someone’s Christmas. You will cause someone gray hairs. You will make someone miss an appointment because they had to deal with your carelessness.
You will have some problems that aren’t even your fault. Maybe your vendor screwed up or the customer had a completely unrealistic expectation even after you explained it for the third time. Maybe you get the good spouse, bad spouse routine.
No matter what type of retail, you are going to have the unhappy customer.
I believe two of my favorite companies – Ritz-Carlton and Zingerman’s Deli have it right.
They both empower their entire staff to be able to take care of a customer’s problem. Everyone from the assistant bottle washer to the garden boy to the valet have authorization to take a customer’s wrongs and make them right.
It does beg the question… Would you leave the fate of your customer service reputation in the hands of your lowest paid employee?
Yes! If you train them right.
Here is the easy format for handling about 98.7% of your unhappy customers.
- Apologize. It doesn’t matter who is at fault. They are angry. They perceive you have slighted them in some way. Apologize to them. “I am really sorry that this happened.”
- Ask. Ask for a complete description of what happened and what went wrong from their perspective. Don’t interrupt. Let them say what is on their mind. Don’t assume you know what happened. Let them tell the whole story. Apologize again, if necessary.
- Amend. Make it right. The best way to make it right in their eyes is to ask, “What would you like us to do?” Most of the time, especially if you have done steps 1 and 2, they will ask for far less than what you are prepared to do. Do what they asked, and then a little more. Yes, even if you’re giving away the farm (figuratively, of course).
- Learn. Let your staff make the customer happy. Then have them report back to you what they did. As long as they made the customer happy, tell your staff, “Well done!” Then show them a better way to handle it the next time if necessary.
You have to train your staff to do this. It won’t happen overnight. You have to role play it at meetings. You have to spell it out in writing. You have to remind them that the store’s first and foremost goal is to have happy customers and their job is to make those customers happy. Your job is to teach them how.
PS Unhappy customers are people, too. Treat them with respect and dignity (apologize and listen fully to their complaints) and they become a lot less unhappy in very short time. In fact, they often become your best ambassadors.