'Tis the Season (for P#ss@d Off Customers) - Slide 4

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When handling a service issue, let the customer know what is going to happen and when it is going to happen. The more information a customer has, the less anxious she feels.

“While hearing that someone is going to address a problem is nice, hearing exactly how it will be solved is more comforting,” says Kuzmeski. “Let’s say you have an online store that sells handmade candles and you accidentally ship the wrong order to a woman who plans to give them out at her annual holiday party. Yes, you should assure her that you’ll correct the mistake right away—but you should also let her know exactly when her candles will arrive and assure her that you’ll pay for the rush delivery.

“When people know the specifics, they feel more in control of the problem and are more willing to partner with you on solutions,” she adds. “On the other hand, if you’re vague about timelines and end up interfering with the customer’s holiday plans or even making her worry needlessly — well, do you think she will ever order from you again?”

It’s that special season again: the season of crowded stores, whiny kids, irritable customers, and stressed-out employees. If you’re a business owner—in any industry but especially in the retail segment—the holidays are a precarious time. When fuses are short and wallets are shrinking, customers expect great service, says author Maribeth Kuzmeski. Fail to provide it, or fail to instantly implement a recovery plan on those occasions when you do drop the ball, and you may find yourself experiencing a not-so-merry 2011.

“Every business owner knows things will go wrong from time to time,” says Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of the book …And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want and The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life. “It’s how you handle these episodes that counts. And at the holidays, the stakes are higher.

“People have higher expectations and a lower tolerance for mistakes,” she adds. “Combine that with distracted employees and larger-than-usual crowds, and it’s the perfect winter storm, so to speak. Without a good service recovery plan, you can easily lose the disgruntled customer, everyone she knows, and possibly a lot of people she doesn’t know if she takes her tale to cyberspace.”

According to Kuzmeski, many companies spend tons of money and time on big customer service initiatives in order to woo new customers—but they end up losing their regular customers over little things. When you consider the 80/20 rule—a maxim stating that most businesses get 80 percent of their revenue from 20 percent of their existing client base—it’s clear that you can’t afford to let that happen.

The solution, says Kuzmeski, is to a) stave off disasters by taking some commonsense preventive measures and b) develop some service recovery techniques and make sure everyone who interacts with your customers knows them. She offers the following advice:

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