'Tis the Season (for P#ss@d Off Customers) - Slide 6

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Make sure all employees (including temporary holiday help if you’re in the retail sector) understand the customer service plan and that everyone knows how to work together to solve customer problems. Creating standards, procedures, and methods of dealing with clients and servicing their needs can really help when it comes to resolving conflicts or handling a dissatisfied customer. You might even consider giving employees “key words” to use in tricky situations, says Kuzmeski.

“Sometimes people have good intentions but just don’t know what to say,” she adds. “It’s not unusual for a well-meaning employee to get flustered and say the wrong thing, which only exacerbates the situation. You don’t have to provide a rigid script—just a few phrases like ‘I’m so sorry this happened to you’ or ‘I would feel the same way if I were in your shoes’ can calm a customer down and salvage the relationship.”

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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